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Trial judge's comments spur COA reversal

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Because of a trial judge's statements following the conviction of a man for having a gun in a controlled area of an airport, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the conviction for insufficient evidence.

Daniel Kribs challenged his conviction following a bench trial of Class A misdemeanor entering a controlled area of an airport with a weapon or explosive in Kribs v. State of Indiana, No. 49A05-0904-CR-225. Kribs has a valid permit to carry his gun, which he carries on a consistent basis. On the day he went to the airport, he put the loaded gun inside the pocket of his jacket. An airport employee saw the gun as it went through the X-ray machine and called Indianapolis Airport Police. Kribs admitted the gun was his but said he put it in his jacket without realizing it and forgot it was there.

Kribs argued the state was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he actually knew he was carrying the weapon to be convicted.

Chief Judge John Baker noted that had the trial court remained silent, it's likely the appellate court would have confirmed Kribs' conviction. The Court of Appeals could have inferred the trial judge didn't believe Kribs' story or gave more weight to the evidence that he always carried the gun inside his jacket pocket. But the trial judge said he believed Kribs didn't remember he had the gun on him and there was no malicious intent involved.

"We agree with Kribs that '[m]ere forgetfulness does not satisfy the knowledge or intent requirement set out by the statute,'" wrote the chief judge.

"The trial court observed the witnesses, weighed the evidence, and concluded that Kribs was unaware he had the handgun in his possession when he entered the airport and placed it on the x-ray conveyor belt."

The state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Kribs knowingly or intentionally possessed the handgun at the time of the events in question.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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