ILNews

SCOTUS denies 2 Indiana cases

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take two Indiana cases, including one that inspired the law requiring child molesters to register their addresses on a public database.

In a list of certiorari denials released May 12, the nation's high court announced it wouldn't review the Hoosier cases Christopher Stevens v. Ed Buss, No. 07-7745, and Christopher J. Stephens v. Indiana, No. 07-9858. Both had been reviewed at the court's private conference last week.

Stevens is the case that inspired Zachary's Law. He was the man convicted and sentenced to death in 1995 for murder of 10-year-old Zachary Snider in Cloverdale two years earlier. Originally, the case was moved from Putnam County to Tippecanoe County and progressed through the state's appellate system; the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed that conviction and sentence in Stevens v. Indiana, 691 N.E.2d 412 (Ind. 1997).

U.S. District Judge Allen Sharp at the Northern District of Indiana in Hammond also denied Stevens' claims for habeas corpus, but on June 18, 2007 the 7th Circuit set aside the death penalty unless the state offered a new sentencing hearing.

The three-judge panel - led by authoring Judge Diane Wood - held that Stevens' defense counsel should have pursued more mental health experts and evidence, but Judge Daniel Manion disagreed and wouldn't have granted relief. Judge Kenneth Ripple also wrote separately to say he would've taken relief a step farther in that he thought the ineffective counsel also affected Stevens' conviction.

In the certiorari petition filed late last year, Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter argued that the federal appellate decision ignored the state court's prejudice analysis and failed to defer to those decisions. Counsel isn't required to continue looking for experts just because one gave an unfavorable opinion, Carter wrote.

"The state courts explained that Stevens suffered no prejudice from any of counsel's potential errors in developing and presenting mental health evidence because the objective facts of the crime and Stevens' own confession 'strongly contradict' the notion that he was insane or impaired at the time of the crime," the petition stated.

Now, the case returns to the trial level. Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter said he heard from the attorney general this morning and said the process will now start for a new jury trial for the death penalty. Tippecanoe Superior Judge George Heid, who'd originally sent Stevens to death row, has since died and a new judge will be assigned.

Meanwhile, in Stephens, the court declined to consider an Elkhart County case that the Indiana Court of Appeals had decided in an October opinion, No. 20A05-0702-CR-95. The Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer in December 2007, and Stephens filed a certiorari petition at the nation's highest court in March. The appeal involved Stephens' felony conviction for nonsupport of a dependent and touched on various issues, including his inability to pay and whether the trial court properly denied his challenge to a prospective juror.
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  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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