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Trial court didn't err in denying mistrial

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A trial court didn't abuse its discretion in denying a mistrial after learning a juror asked the state's firearms expert a question outside the courtroom during a recess in the trial, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

Zachariah H. Holden appealed his conviction of Class B felony robbery and adjudication as a habitual offender, arguing his motion for a mistrial should have been granted based on the juror's actions. Deputy Sheriff Steven Lawson testified as an expert on firearms and firearms identification. He reviewed two photographs taken from surveillance video of the gun used during the robbery of a convenience store. He testified based on the photos, the gun was a six-shot Taurus .357 revolver with a 6 ½-inch barrel. But, he later said he couldn't tell based on the photos if the gun was a six- or eight-shot gun.

During a recess, a juror asked the deputy sheriff if he could tell whether the gun was a six- or eight-shot revolver, and he said he couldn't tell by looking at the photos. Lawson told the juror he thought it was a six-shot but there are two versions of the gun. After learning of the incident, the court brought all the jurors in, admonished them, informed them they couldn't ask questions outside of the courtroom, and put Lawson back on the stand to answer the question.

Holden had moved for a mistrial because Lawson talked to the juror about an issue directly related to the case; the trial court denied it because it didn't involve an outside influence talking to the juror. Defense counsel rejected the idea of dismissing the juror.

In Holden v. State, No. 57A03-0903-CR-111, the appellate court determined the failure to grant a mistrial wasn't an error. Holden likely waived the issue because his counsel declined to replace the juror, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

Even if he didn't waive the issue, the juror's misconduct didn't warrant a mistrial. Lawson originally had testified he couldn't tell whether the gun was a six- or eight-shot revolver, and when he was put back on the stand, gave the same answer. Lawson's answer to the juror that the gun was a six-shot was actually favorable to Holden, she noted.

"In light of this evidence, the juror's misconduct was not so prejudicial and inflammatory that Holden was placed in a position of grave peril to which he should not have been subjected," she wrote.

The appellate court also noted per Indiana Jury Rule 24, the trial court should have examined the juror under oath in the presence of the parties and outside the presence of the other jurors about her knowledge of the gun, and possibly excused her. Because the court admonished the jurors, asked Lawson the very question the juror had asked outside the courtroom, and his answers were substantially the same, any error in failing to follow Jury Rule 24 was harmless, wrote Judge Vaidik.

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  1. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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