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Security concerns should be part of record

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The Indiana Supreme Court wants state trial judges to offer written guidance if and when courthouse or jury security concerns come up during trial.

In its Friday decision in Chawknee Caruthers v. State of Indiana, No. 46S05-0910-CR-431, the state’s five justices analyzed a high-profile murder case before LaPorte Superior Judge Kathleen Lang in 2008. The case involves Chawknee Caruthers’ shooting and killing a man after mistaking him for someone else, and a jury found Caruthers guilty of murder.

During the trial, the court took extra security measures to address juror concerns that aren’t specified in the record. The court ruling says that Caruthers’ lawyer, James Cupp from Michigan City, made a statement on the final day of trial: “There apparently is some information afloat which I would characterize as somewhat a thinly veiled allegation of jury tampering, and that concerns me greatly. Apparently, someone somewhere has received some information from a juror or jurors that one or more of them, the jurors, are feeling intimidated by actions that such juror or jurors attribute to my client. I wanted to make a record of that, Your Honor, because I think it’s a very serious allegation …”

Cupp didn’t ask the court to take any action, according to the Supreme Court decision, and the trial continued and resulted in the jury convicting Caruthers of murder and finding him to be a habitual offender. At the sentencing hearing, the trial judge acknowledged the extra security and alternative parking for jurors and said the court advised them of the ministerial aspects of the precautions, but no one ever informed the judge about anyone being personally approached or threatened.

On appeal, Caruthers argued the trial court didn’t adequately interrogate the jury about the effect those security concerns had on their impartiality. The Court of Appeals issued a 2-1 decision last year reversing the convictions, finding the lower court should have at least inquired about the issue.

But the justices disagree with that.

“To require jury interrogations in any case that calls for heightened security measures would amount to an extreme precaution against jury bias,” Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard wrote, turning to precedent to say that it can’t infer prejudice when none is shown and no relationship appears to exist between a juror and one of the parties.

But even with that, the justices do point out that lower court judges should offer as much guidance as possible to allow appellate courts to adequately review circumstances.

“We acknowledge that best practice would have been for the trial court to enter its observations into the record at the time action was taken, giving further description of the nature of the jurors’ concerns and its reasoning for taking the security measures it did and not anything more,” the chief justice wrote.
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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