ILNews

Supreme Court: Be careful about reweighing evidence on appeal

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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Indiana's top jurists today issued a cautionary note to the state's Court of Appeals: that reweighing evidence in cases isn't the norm for appellate courts and could mean reversal if that happens.

That message came in the form of a unanimous seven-page opinion authored by Chief Justice Randall Shepard, involving the case Ronnie Drane v. State of Indiana, 45S04-0611-CR-477.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reweighed evidence in a Lake County rape and murder bench trial and, as a result, the justices have dismissed the appellate judges' decision and reinstated the trial court convictions and sentencing.

Drane was charged and convicted in the May 2002 murder and rape of Tomorra "Precious" Taylor, and was sentenced to an aggregate sentence of 85 years. The Court of Appeals reversed in June 2006, concluding the state did not present sufficient evidence to support the convictions.

In September, on a state request for rehearing, the Court of Appeals issued a second memorandum opinion on the case. Though noting its awareness of not being in a position to reweigh evidence or judge witness credibility, the court affirmed its earlier ruling and again stated the evidence was insufficient.

But Chief Justice Shepard wrote today that, "There is more than sufficient evidence to support both the murder and rape convictions."

Citing from its past decisions, he wrote that "appellate courts must consider only the probative evidence and reasonable evidence supporting the verdict," and that it's "the fact-finder's role, not that of appellate courts, to assess witness credibility and weigh the evidence to determine whether it is sufficient to support a conviction."

The chief justice also noted that appellate courts affirm convictions unless "no reasonable fact-finder could find the elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt."
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  4. Law school is social control the goal to produce a social product. As such it began after the Revolution and has nearly ruined us to this day: "“Scarcely any political question arises in the United States which is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question. Hence all parties are obliged to borrow, in their daily controversies, the ideas, and even the language, peculiar to judicial proceedings. As most public men [i.e., politicians] are, or have been, legal practitioners, they introduce the customs and technicalities of their profession into the management of public affairs. The jury extends this habitude to all classes. The language of the law thus becomes, in some measure, a vulgar tongue; the spirit of the law, which is produced in the schools and courts of justice, gradually penetrates beyond their walls into the bosom of society, where it descends to the lowest classes, so that at last the whole people contract the habits and the tastes of the judicial magistrate.” ? Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

  5. Attorney? Really? Or is it former attorney? Status with the Ind St Ct? Status with federal court, with SCOTUS? This is a legal newspaper, or should I look elsewhere?

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