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Refusal to give jury instruction not harmless error

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A trial court’s error in refusing to give a defendant’s tendered self-defense and resistance of unlawful force instructions during his trial was not harmless and requires the man’s conviction of Class D felony resisting law enforcement be overturned, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Wednesday.

Police responded to a 911 call of a possible car accident on the morning of Dec. 25, 2010, in South Bend. The officers saw a silver car had pushed up another parked vehicle and was running. Mitchell Burton was inside sleeping and originally not responsive to the officers’ requests to turn off the car and open the door. He apparently had been pushing his car’s accelerator while asleep. Eventually an officer broke a window, and police grabbed Burton and wrestled him to the ground. A DVD recording of the event from an officer’s car shows a struggle between the three officers and Burton, with Burton shouting that he was not resisting.

At least one officer punched him. Burton was handcuffed and taken to the hospital for multiple injuries, including facial fractures. He was charged with battery on the officers and resisting law enforcement, but only convicted of the resisting charge.

Burton claimed the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to give tendered jury instructions that addressed his right to defend himself and/or use force under the circumstances of this case. The trial court refused to give the instructions because the evidence didn’t support giving the instructions.

The Court of Appeals found the DVD provides a strong evidentiary foundation that warrants the giving of the self-defense instruction. Burton also was entitled to the jury instructions on excessive force by police officers because the DVD provides evidence from which a jury could decide that Burton was not an immediate threat to the officers or anyone else, and that he offered no resistance prior to being pulled from the car.

The appellate judges ordered Burton’s conviction vacated in Mitchell Burton v. State of Indiana, 71A03-1203-CR-129.
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  1. Paul Ogden doing a fine job of remembering his peer Gary Welsh with the post below and a call for an Indy gettogether to celebrate Gary .... http://www.ogdenonpolitics.com/2016/05/indiana-loses-citizen-journalist-giant.html Castaways of Indiana, unite!

  2. It's unfortunate that someone has attempted to hijack the comments to promote his own business. This is not an article discussing the means of preserving the record; no matter how it's accomplished, ethics and impartiality are paramount concerns. When a party to litigation contracts directly with a reporting firm, it creates, at the very least, the appearance of a conflict of interest. Court reporters, attorneys and judges are officers of the court and must abide by court rules as well as state and federal laws. Parties to litigation have no such ethical responsibilities. Would we accept insurance companies contracting with judges? This practice effectively shifts costs to the party who can least afford it while reducing costs for the party with the most resources. The success of our justice system depends on equal access for all, not just for those who have the deepest pockets.

  3. As a licensed court reporter in California, I have to say that I'm sure that at some point we will be replaced by speech recognition. However, from what I've seen of it so far, it's a lot farther away than three years. It doesn't sound like Mr. Hubbard has ever sat in a courtroom or a deposition room where testimony is being given. Not all procedures are the same, and often they become quite heated with the ends of question and beginning of answers overlapping. The human mind can discern the words to a certain extent in those cases, but I doubt very much that a computer can yet. There is also the issue of very heavy accents and mumbling. People speak very fast nowadays, and in order to do that, they generally slur everything together, they drop or swallow words like "the" and "and." Voice recognition might be able to produce some form of a transcript, but I'd be very surprised if it produces an accurate or verbatim transcript, as is required in the legal world.

  4. Really enjoyed the profile. Congratulations to Craig on living the dream, and kudos to the pros who got involved to help him realize the vision.

  5. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

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