ILNews

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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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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