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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. A traditional parade of attorneys? Really Evansville? Y'all need to get out more. When is the traditional parade of notaries? Nurses? Sanitation workers? Pole dancers? I gotta wonder, do throngs of admiring citizens gather to laud these marching servants of the constitution? "Show us your billing records!!!" Hoping some video gets posted. Ours is not a narcissistic profession by any chance, is it? Nah .....

  2. My previous comment not an aside at court. I agree with smith. Good call. Just thought posting here a bit on the if it bleeds it leads side. Most attorneys need to think of last lines of story above.

  3. Hello everyone I'm Gina and I'm here for the exact same thing you are. I have the wonderful joy of waking up every morning to my heart being pulled out and sheer terror of what DCS is going to Throw at me and my family today.Let me start from the !bebeginning.My daughter lost all rights to her 3beautiful children due to Severe mental issues she no longer lives in our state and has cut all ties.DCS led her to belive that once she done signed over her right the babies would be with their family. We have faught screamed begged and anything else we could possibly due I hired a lawyer five grand down the drain.You know all I want is my babies home.I've done everything they have even asked me to do.Now their saying I can't see my grandchildren cause I'M on a prescription for paipain.I have a very rare blood disease it causes cellulitis a form of blood poisoning to stay dormant in my tissues and nervous system it also causes a ,blood clotting disorder.even with the two blood thinners I'm on I still Continue to develop them them also.DCS knows about my illness and still they refuse to let me see my grandchildren. I Love and miss them so much Please can anyone help Us my grandchildren and I they should be worrying about what toy there going to play with but instead there worrying about if there ever coming home again.THANK YOU DCS FOR ALL YOU'VE DONE. ( And if anyone at all has any ideals or knows who can help. Please contact (765)960~5096.only serious callers

  4. He must be a Rethuglican, for if from the other side of the aisle such acts would be merely personal and thus not something that attaches to his professional life. AND ... gotta love this ... oh, and on top of talking dirty on the phone, he also, as an aside, guess we should mention, might be important, not sure, but .... "In addition to these allegations, Keaton was accused of failing to file an appeal after he collected advance payment from a client seeking to challenge a ruling that the client repay benefits because of unreported income." rimshot

  5. I am not a fan of some of the 8.4 discipline we have seen for private conduct-- but this was so egregious and abusive and had so many points of bad conduct relates to the law and the lawyer's status as a lawyer that it is clearly a proper and just disbarment. A truly despicable account of bad acts showing unfit character to practice law. I applaud the outcome.

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