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SCOTUS declines to take Indiana criminal case

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The nation’s highest court won’t take a case asking whether a defendant’s second trial was barred by the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment, meaning that an Indiana Supreme Court decision on the issue will stand.

In an order list released Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States decided against taking the case of Nathan Brock v. State of Indiana, No. 11-8436, challenging a decision by the state justices last year.

In that Oct. 18 ruling, the justices found that although the defendant didn’t consent to a mistrial, Jay Superior Judge Max Ludy Jr. didn’t abuse his discretion in finding that a mistrial was justified by “manifest necessity.”

Nathan Brock appealed his conviction of Class C felony operating a motor vehicle after forfeiture of driving privileges for life. He was charged with violating Indiana Code 9-30-10-17, and during trial his defense counsel made several improper statements to the jury — including insinuating that redacted material in Brock’s driving record may have been beneficial to Brock. The state moved for a mistrial, but the court denied it and ordered that evidence would be reopened. After a short recess, Ludy decided to grant the request for a mistrial and discharged the jury. Brock filed a motion to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds just before his second trial was to begin. The trial court denied that motion and he was convicted. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed, finding Brock waived his right to claim double jeopardy because he didn’t timely object to the state’s motion for a mistrial, and manifest necessity justified the judge’s decision.

In its decision, Justice Frank Sullivan wrote that Brock did not consent to the trial judge’s declaration of a mistrial. The court adopted the approach taken by the federal appellate courts which have held that a defendant consents to a mistrial when he or she has an opportunity to object and fails to do so. These courts have also recognized that sometimes there is no opportunity to object and to prohibit a defendant from raising a double jeopardy claim under these circumstances would be too harsh, Sullivan wrote.

Brock’s attorney, Dale Arnett in Winchester, filed a petition for certiorari in October and this denial means the state ruling is the final word unless a rehearing request is filed with the SCOTUS.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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