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Partially bifurcating trial prevented prejudice

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A defendant’s argument that he was prejudiced by a trial court’s decision to not fully bifurcate his murder trial failed in the Indiana Supreme Court.

Billy Russell appealed his conviction for murder and Class B felony possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. He appealed, in part, on the grounds that the trial court abused its discretion by partially – instead of fully – bifurcating his trial.

The Supreme Court affirmed the partial bifurcation in Billy Russell v. State of Indiana, 49S04-1311-CR-741.

During Russell’s trial, the court split his prosecution into two phases. In the first phase, the jury had to determine whether Russell committed murder and whether he unlawfully possessed a firearm. In the second phase, the jury was charged with deciding whether Russell committed felony possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon and whether he was a habitual offender.

The Supreme Court agreed with the Indiana Court of Appeals that asking the jury to decide whether Russell knowingly possessed a firearm at the same time it was asked to decide whether he committed murder was not prejudicial. The Supreme Court did not find it was prejudicial to instruct the jury on the non-existent offense of “unlawful possession of a firearm” because the jury considered whether Russell had “unlawfully” possessed a firearm and whether he was a SVF in two separate phases of the trial.

 


 

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  2. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  3. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  4. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  5. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

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