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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. For many years this young man was "family" being my cousin's son. Then he decided to ignore my existence and that of my daughter who was very hurt by his actions after growing up admiring, Jason. Glad he is doing well, as for his opinion, if you care so much you wouldn't ignore the feelings of those who cared so much about you for years, Jason.

  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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