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'Pleading the Fifth' not the same as admitting to criminal act

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A reference made during a trial to “pleading the Fifth” is not an admission of a crime and, therefore, by itself is not grounds for a mistrial, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

In Roger Jay Piatek, M.D. and The Piatek Institute v. Shairon Beale, 49A04-1209-CT-448, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s denial of Roger Jay Piatek’s motion for a mistrial. It found the trial court’s admonition was sufficient to cure any prejudice from Shairon Beale’s reference to Piatek pleading the Fifth Amendment.

Beale filed a medical malpractice complaint against Piatek after she developed toxic epidermal necrolysis that was believed to have been caused by the medications Piatek prescribed for weight loss.

Piatek’s motion for a mistrial came after an exchange between Piatek and Beale’s counsel in the courtroom. Beale’s counsel asked Piatek a series of questions regarding I.C. 35-48-3-11 which provides for the use of Schedule III or Schedule IV controlled substances for the purposes of weight reduction or to control obesity.

Piatek’s counsel objected, saying the plaintiff’s counsel should not be asking him questions of law. At that point, Beale’s counsel, contending she was not asking Piatek to practice law, turned her attention to the Request for Admission and asked Piatek if he remembered pleading the Fifth.

As part of a pre-trial Request for Admission, Piatek was asked to admit he violated I.C. 35-48-3-11 when he prescribed Phentermine to Beale. The doctor responded “Defendants object to this Request on Fifth Amendment grounds.”

Piatek’s counsel requested a mistrial.

After hearing arguments of counsel and over the objection of Piatek’s counsel, the trial court admonished the jury that Piatek “has never pleaded the Fifth in this case and is not pleading the Fifth in this case. So disregard the question and the inference that could be made from that question.”

The COA declined to hold that a generic reference to “pleading the Fifth” subjected Piatek to greater prejudice.

The question from Beale’s counsel about whether Piatek remembered pleading the Fifth did not assert facts not in evidence. Nor did the counsel’s statement indicate the doctor had engaged in criminal activity.

“We acknowledge a reference to ‘pleading the Fifth’ suggests some underlying criminal activity and may be prejudicial,” Judge Melissa May wrote for the court. “But ‘pleading the Fifth”’ is not itself a criminal act; it is an assertion of a constitutional protection. … The trial court’s admonition to Beale’s jury was adequate.”

 
 

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  1. Such things are no more elections than those in the late, unlamented Soviet Union.

  2. It appears the police and prosecutors are allowed to change the rules halfway through the game to suit themselves. I am surprised that the congress has not yet eliminated the right to a trial in cases involving any type of forensic evidence. That would suit their foolish law and order police state views. I say we eliminate the statute of limitations for crimes committed by members of congress and other government employees. Of course they would never do that. They are all corrupt cowards!!!

  3. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  4. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  5. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

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