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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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  1. 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.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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