For Publication opinions on Indiana cases released by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and Tax Court during this issue’s reporting period are highlighted in this section. To read the complete opinion issued in any of these cases, visit www.theindianalawyer.com and search by case name. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Civil – Insurance/Breach of Contract/Bad Faith
G&S Holdings LLC, et al. v. Continental Casualty Company
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a group of businesses that sued an insurance company claiming its failure to adequately pay G&S Metal Consultants Inc. following an explosion at the GSMC Georgia plant led to the plaintiffs suffering financial losses.
G&S Metal Trading, G&S Holdings, Aluminum Sizing, and owner operators of G&S Metal Consultants R. Scott Galley II and Cynthia Galley sued Continental Casualty Co., the insurer of GSMC. Pursuant to its policy, Continental made some payouts to GSMC after the explosion, but GSMC claimed those payments were inadequate. It since has filed for bankruptcy, which has affected the businesses of the parties in this case. G&S Metal Trading, G&S Holdings and Aluminum Sizing are affiliated with GSMC and are additional named insureds under the policy that covered the Georgia plant.
The lawsuit filed in South Bend alleges seven counts against Continental: breach of contract, promissory estoppel, bad faith claims handling, negligent claims handling, tortious interference with contract, negligent infliction of emotional distress and breach of fiduciary duties. The crux of the complaint was that as a result of the failure to receive timely and adequate payments, GSMC experienced financial difficulties and the plaintiffs were adversely affected by the ensuing loss of business with GSMC.
U.S. District Judge Jon DeGuilio dismissed the lawsuit for failure to state a claim or that the plaintiffs lacked standing. The 7th Circuit found the plaintiffs couldn’t succeed on their claim that the wrong standard was applied to the motion to dismiss. The federal pleading standard as set forth in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), applies.
The federal appellate court affirmed DeGuilio’s dismissal of the breach of contract, promissory estoppel, bad faith claims handling, negligent claims handling, and breach of fiduciary duties claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). DeGuilio ruled that the plaintiffs weren’t the real parties in interest because they did not seek recovery for an injury they suffered directly. The 7th Circuit also upheld DeGuilio’s rejection of the plaintiffs’ contention that they had standing as third-party beneficiaries of the policy.
The Circuit Court also found that Vectren Energy Marketing & Service Inc. v. Executive Risk Specialty Ins. Co., 875 N.E.2d 774 (Ind. App. 2007), applies.
“Even though the loss was a predictable result of the failure to fulfill the obligations of the policy, due to the interdependent relationship between the plaintiffs and GSMC, the claim against the insurer must be brought by the party to whom the duty is owed, which was GSMC,” Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner wrote.
Civil – Medicaid/Dental Work
Sandra M. Bontrager, on her own behalf and on behalf of a class of those similarly situated v. Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, Michael A. Gargano and Patricia Casanova
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has left in place the preliminary injunction granted by Northern District Chief Judge Philip Simon last year that prevents the state from capping dental work for Medicaid recipients at $1,000 a year.
Indiana Medicaid covers certain dental procedures that are “medically reasonable and necessary.” The state implemented the cap beginning Jan. 1, 2011, as a cost-cutting measure. Sandra Bontrager, who is on Medicaid, needs extensive dental work that will exceed the $1,000 cap.
The Circuit judges affirmed that Bontrager has a private right of action under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 to challenge the cap.
The state claimed the cap does not prevent coverage of any medically necessary dental procedures, but operates as an appropriate limitation authorized by 42 C.F.R. Section 440.230 and I.C. 12-15-21-3(3).
“We agree with the district court that the cap prevents the State from providing coverage for all medically necessary services, and partial payment for such services does not constitute ‘some coverage,’ as the State would have us believe,” Judge Michael Kanne wrote.
The cap denies coverage for medically necessary services outright by functionally excluding certain procedures, the court held, and the cap is not in any way based on degree or consideration of medical necessity. It doesn’t matter, as the state asserts, that more than 99 percent of dental procedures needed by Medicaid recipients would be covered under the $1,000 cap.
The 7th Circuit also rejected the state’s claim that the cap is a “utilization control procedure.”
“Although we are mindful of potential budgetary concerns, these interests do not outweigh Medicaid recipients’ interests in access to medically necessary health care,” Kanne wrote. “The State cautions that it may end coverage of all dental services under its Medicaid plan if the $1,000 cap is no longer in place. Thus, this lawsuit may result only in a pyrrhic victory for the plaintiff. But the State’s likely violation of state and federal law cannot be ignored in order to preserve the status quo. Moreover, there are other avenues by which the State can limit its exposure to significant Medicaid costs.”
Indiana Court of Appeals
Civil Plenary – Breach of Contract/Subcontractor
L.H. Controls, Inc. v. Custom Conveyor, Inc.
The Indiana Court of Appeals has found that Greensburg-based Custom Conveyor Inc. is only entitled to recover about a tenth of the original $1.4 million awarded to it on breach of contract and warranty claims the company made against a subcontractor regarding work on the Indiana Honda plant.
Honda hired CCI, which specializes in installing conveyor systems in factories, to install the necessary systems in the plant it was building in Greensburg. CCI subcontracted computer programming and electrical control box work to L.H. Controls Inc. There were issues with L.H. completing work on time. The delays resulted in pushing the conveyor installation back three months, but that did not affect the opening of the factory.
L.H. sought payment for unpaid invoices from CCI, which it did not pay, so L.H. filed a mechanic’s lien against the Honda plant as well as a personal liability notice against Honda. CCI eventually paid a portion of the invoices, withholding more than $80,000 in chargebacks. L.H. sued Honda and CCI in 2009 for breach of contract and to enforce the personal liability notice against Honda and foreclose the mechanic’s lien. Honda was eventually dismissed and CCI counterclaimed for breach of contract and warranty and indemnification.
The trial court found L.H. breached its contract with CCI in 12 ways, had a contractual obligation to indemnify CCI, and breached warranties. It ultimately awarded CCI damages against L.H. in the amount of $1,409,896.97, which later went up to $1,467,587.61 after factoring in attorney fees and costs.
The Court of Appeals reversed the lost profit damages of $1,144,470 awarded to CCI, the $133,328.53 in attorney fees, and the award of damages of $82,184.10 for CCI’s chargebacks, as well as $5,259.38 in set-off for L.H. the court allowed against the chargebacks amount.
Judge Michael Barnes wrote the appellate court could not discern any conceivable basis upon which to affirm the award of lost profit damages against L.H. in any amount. CCI is entitled to seek to make a profit on projects it completes, but there is nothing in the trial court’s findings or the record that would support shifting that expectation onto the back of L.H., he continued.
There is no plain language in the master construction agreement’s indemnity provision that clearly and unambiguously states L.H. would be required to indemnify CCI for all costs associated with any cause of action asserted even by parties to the agreement in a breach of contract action between the parties, the judges held. L.H. would not be required to pay CCI’s attorney fees.
The trial court also erred in including the $82,000 in chargebacks.
The judges did affirm $8,005.86 in costs related to CCI’s removal of the mechanic’s lien against Honda’s property. That amount combined with the damages L.H. did not challenge on appeal – which totaled $104,858.60 – means CCI is only entitled to $112,864.46.
Post Conviction – Murder/Sentence/Ineffective Counsel
Duane Turner v. State of Indiana
Duane Turner will spend the rest of his life in prison for murdering a Ball State student in 1994. The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected his claims that his sentence was unconstitutional and that his attorney was ineffective.
Turner and Larry Newton went to the BSU campus with the intent of robbing someone. They picked up Chris Coyle and offered him a ride home. They demanded money from him, forced him out of the car, and then Newton shot Coyle once in the back of the head. Turner then shot Coyle in the shoulder. He died from the first shot.
Turner was convicted of felony murder and other charges, but only the murder conviction and a conviction of Class A felony attempted robbery resulting in serious bodily injury are at issue on this appeal. The jury was unable to recommend life imprisonment without parole, so the trial court held a sentencing hearing. The judge sentenced Turner to life without parole.
Turner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, challenging his sentence as unconstitutional based on Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), and Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002), and alleging that he received ineffective trial and appellate assistance. The same lawyer represented him at both stages.
The post-conviction court denied relief; the Court of Appeals affirmed. It relied on Holmes v. State, 820 N.E.2d 136 (Ind. 2005), in which the Indiana Supreme Court held the verdict returned during the guilt phase sufficed to establish that “the jury found, beyond a reasonable doubt, aggravating circumstances” rendering Holmes eligible for the death penalty. Apprendi’s requirement that “any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt” was met by the nature of Holmes’ convictions, the high court held.
Here, the jury unanimously found Turner guilty of murder and attempted robbery resulting in serious bodily injury. The jury necessarily found the existence of one statutory aggravating circumstance alleged by the state, that Turner intentionally killed Coyle while committing or attempting to commit robbery, Judge Patricia Riley wrote.
The appellate judges found Turner’s attorney did not provide ineffective assistance at the trial level or appellate level, except for one issue on appeal. They found his attorney ineffective by not appealing his attempted robbery conviction on double jeopardy grounds. The judges remanded with instructions to reduce the conviction to a Class B felony.
Civil Tort – Underinsured Motorist Insurance
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Alan Steady v. Richard Kern
The Indiana Court of Appeals held that the party at-fault in an auto accident is not entitled to benefit from the injured party’s “carefulness and assiduousness” in obtaining underinsured motorist insurance coverage.
The court reversed a ruling finding a $98,000 judgment against Alan Steady was satisfied after injured party Ronald Kern’s insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., paid out $68,000 in underinsured motorist benefits to Kern. A jury found Steady 100 percent liable for the accident and injuries Kern sustained, but Steady’s insurance policy was only for $25,000. State Farm also paid $5,000 for medical expenses.
After State Farm paid out the UIM benefits, Steady asked the trial court to deem his judgment satisfied. The trial court granted the request, leading to the appeal by State Farm.
Steady claimed State Farm couldn’t appeal because it wasn’t a party at the time judgment was entered against him, but Indiana’s Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage Act allows the company to be subrogated to the proceeds of the judgment against Steady. Therefore, State Farm has standing to appeal, the court held.
“When an insurer compensates its insured due to a third party tortfeasor being underinsured, the third party tortfeasor’s liability is not reduced. Rather, Indiana Code section 27-7-5-6(a) provides that the insurer may enforce its insured’s right of recovery against the third-party tortfeasor, either in its own name or in the name of its insured, and that the insurer shall then be subrogated to the proceeds of any settlement or judgment that results,” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote. “To allow a judgment entered against the third-party tortfeasor to be deemed satisfied due to the insurer’s underinsured motorist payment to its insured would undermine the purpose of this statute.”
The case goes back to the trial court for further proceedings.
Criminal – Drug Charges/Miranda Rights
Efren Mendoza-Vargas v. State of Indiana
An Elkhart man is entitled to a new trial on drug charges after the Indiana Court of Appeals found the police failed to “scrupulously honor” his right to remain silent.
Efren Mendoza-Vargas was charged and convicted of Class A felony dealing in methamphetamine, Class D felony maintaining a common nuisance and Class D felony possession of marijuana. The Elkhart County Interdiction and Covert Enforcement team executed a warrant at the home where Mendoza-Vargas lived. He was handcuffed while police searched the home. They found large amounts of money, methamphetamine and marijuana.
ICE employee Jennifer Gomez, who is fluent in English and Spanish, read Mendoza-Vargas his Miranda rights in Spanish. He said he understood these rights. He shook his head “no” as to whether he wanted to answer questions. But police kept asking him questions, even one about rubber bands found in the house. He was given a few minutes to decide whether he wanted to answer questions.
After 10 minutes, an officer asked Mendoza-Vargas if he could ask a question, then asked if his “contact” was in Indiana. Mendoza-Vargas then explained he got the drugs from Mexico.
Instead of immediately ceasing any questions after Mendoza-Vargas indicated he didn’t want to talk, police kept questioning him. And officers never re-read Mendoza-Vargas his Miranda rights again after he began answering questions, Judge Paul Mathias wrote.
The trial court abused its discretion when it admitted his statements to police into evidence because police “failed to scrupulously honor Mendoza-Vargas’s right to remain silent,” the judges held.
This was not a harmless error, but he may be retired without the admittance of the statements to police.
Civil Tort – False Imprisonment/Malicious Prosecution
Cody Waldrip v. Angela Waldrip, City of Bloomington, Indiana, Monroe County, Indiana, State of Indiana
The Indiana Court of Appeals concluded that portions of a man’s lawsuit alleging false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and other claims against his ex-wife and the city of Bloomington may continue. The trial court had dismissed all claims against the parties, which includes Monroe County.
Cody Waldrip filed his tort claim notice Dec. 14, 2009, after he was released from jail when the prosecutor dismissed remaining charges against him. He was originally arrested in April 2008 after Angela Waldrip told police her then-husband had battered her. She later filed for a protective order and alleged Cody Waldrip violated that, so he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor invasion of privacy.
A jury acquitted Cody Waldrip in September 2009, although the record isn’t clear what he was on trial for or what charges the prosecutor later dismissed.
Cody Waldrip claimed that his ex-wife made false criminal accusations in order to gain an advantage regarding custody of their children and that she abused her position as an employee of Monroe Circuit Court in obtaining the protective order. Angela Waldrip was a court reporter.
His suit made similar allegations against the three defendants – his ex-wife, Bloomington and Monroe County – including defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court granted motions to dismiss filed by the county and Angela Waldrip, and Bloomington’s motion for judgment on the pleadings.
The appellate court rejected the county’s argument that the appeal should be dismissed as untimely. It affirmed dismissal of claims against the county because Cody Waldrip’s complaint didn’t state any claims that could be properly presented against Monroe County. The Circuit court is funded by the state.
The judges found Cody Waldrip’s tort claim notice was timely as to his claims of malicious prosecution and that more information is needed to show whether he was incapacitated as defined by statute and therefore unable to timely file his claims against the city for false arrest, false imprisonment, abuse of process and defamation.
The claims of false imprisonment, civil perjury, tortious interference with child custody and/or parenting time, defamation and abuse of process claims against Angela Waldrip were properly dismissed, the court held, but the claims of malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress against her may continue.
Civil Plenary – Defamation
Janice Brandom v. Coupled Products, LLC
A defamation suit against an employee will proceed following the Indiana Court of Appeals’ finding that there is doubt as to what conclusion a jury could reach in determining whether statements were made in good faith and without malice.
Between August 2009 and July 2010, a series of articles appeared in a Whitley County newspaper about Coupled Products’ proposed move of equipment from an Ohio facility to Columbia City. On Sept. 16, 2009, one article contained a number of statements that Coupled contended were false.
The company believed Janice Brandom, an employee and chair of the UAW Local 2049’s bargaining committee, made the statements.
Coupled sued Brandom for defamation, submitting evidence to contradict the statements she allegedly made to the paper. Brandom moved to dismiss pursuant to the anti-SLAPP statute on the grounds the statements were made in furtherance of her right of free speech in connection with an issue of public interest.
The trial court denied Brandom’s motion to dismiss.
The COA affirmed the ruling. The court found her statements were in the public interest but there is a genuine issue of fact as to whether Brandom knew her statements were false, entertained serious doubts as to their truth, or made the statements with reckless disregard of whether they were false.
In his dissent, Judge Michael Barnes argued the evidence does not establish that Brandom acted in bad faith or without a reason basis in law and fact.
“The good faith requirement should and must be present, but in this context, with collective bargaining in play, I believe Brandom’s conversation with the reporter was had in good faith. Remember, too, there is no direct quote in the article in question and the reporter was free to, and undoubtedly did, capsulize, summarize, and characterize the conversation. In my view, the anti-SLAPP statute provides protection in such instances.”
Criminal –Warrantless Search/Testimony & Evidence
Gregory Kirk v. State of Indiana
A man’s conviction on a drug dealing conspiracy charge was reversed when an appeals court panel ruled that a Marion County court erred in admitting testimony and evidence about text messages from the defendant’s stepson.
The court found that the admission of 16-year-old stepson D.K.’s statements to an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer was harmless to three of Kirk’s convictions, but not to a conviction of conspiracy to commit dealing in a controlled substance.
In a jury trial, Kirk was convicted of conspiracy to commit dealing in cocaine as a Class B felony, conspiracy to commit dealing in a controlled substance as a Class B felony, neglect of a dependent as a Class C felony, and possession of marijuana as a Class A misdemeanor.
On appeal, Kirk argued that the court abused its discretion in admitting incriminating statements that D.K. made to police and in admitting evidence gathered during a warrantless search of Kirk’s cell phone.
The Indiana Court of Appeals found that D.K.’s statements to police constituted damaging hearsay, and that a warrantless police search of Kirk’s cell phone after he was arrested for neglect of a dependent and public intoxication went too far.
“There was no real law enforcement need to open the cell phone, press a button to access the inbox, and read six to eight text messages,” Judge James Kirsch wrote for the unanimous panel. “The state attempts to justify the search of the cell phone under the Indiana Constitution by stating that the search intruded only a small amount into Kirk’s ordinary activities and that law enforcement needs were great. On balance, we are not persuaded.”
The court found that police testimony connected to text messages they saw on Kirk’s phone was the only evidence that proved Kirk conspired to sell controlled substances.
“We therefore reverse Kirk’s conviction as to the count of conspiracy to commit dealing in a controlled substance and remand to the trial court so that his sentence may be changed accordingly,” Kirsch wrote.
Kirk unsuccessfully argued that a search warrant that turned up drugs in his home should not have been admitted. The appeals court found no error in allowing the search and resulting evidence.
Civil Plenary – Hospital Lien/Out-of-State Judgment
Parkview Hospital, Inc. v. Geico General Insurance Company
A Fort Wayne Hospital that treated a person injured after a Tennessee vehicle crash may not enforce a lien against a judgment of a Tennessee court that awarded damages to the motorist.
John G. Smith was injured in a Knoxville, Tenn., car crash in 2007, and a couple of months later he underwent surgery at Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne. Smith sued the driver of the other vehicle in the wreck and was awarded a judgment of $22,000 through Geico, the other driver’s insurer.
Parkview filed a hospital lien in Allen County, but the Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with a ruling of Allen Superior Judge Nancy Eshcoff Boyer that the hospital’s claim against Geico should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
The court noted that I.C. 32-33-4-1 clearly sets the requirement for claiming a hospital lien: “In order to claim the lien, the hospital must at the time or after the judgment is rendered, enter, in writing, upon the judgment docket where the judgment is recorded, the hospital’s intention to hold a lien upon the judgment, together with the amount claimed.”
“An Indiana court may decide that Smith’s personal liability for medical services is not extinguished, and there is an amount due and owing, but may not reinstate obligations of (the other driver) or his insurer extinguished by compliance with the Tennessee judgment,” the court ruled.
Criminal – Fundamental Error/Show-Up Identification
Carlos Hale v. State of Indiana
A defendant who attempted to have his conviction reversed by citing the fundamental error doctrine instead received a sharp rebuke from the Indiana Court of Appeals.
Carlos Hale appealed his conviction of robbery, a Class B felony. He argued the show-up identification was unduly suggestive and maintained the introduction of this evidence was a fundamental error.
A short time after a woman reported she had been robbed at gunpoint by two men outside her apartment, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers stopped a vehicle which contained Hale and three other men. Hale and Martell Stott matched the description provided by the victim.
Less than an hour after police stopped the vehicle, the victim was brought to the scene where she remained in the detective’s vehicle and viewed the four men, identifying Hale and Stott as the individuals who robbed her.
The victim subsequently identified Hale again during the trial without objection and the state presented evidence from the show-up identification. Hale was found guilty and sentenced to seven years.
The COA found the lower court did not err by admitting the evidence of the show-up identification because the victim could clearly see Hale’s face during the robbery and she identified him soon after the incident.
In addition, the court pointed out the defense counsel neither filed a pretrial motion to suppress the show-up identification nor did the defense counsel object to its admission at trial. An objection is required to preserve an error for review on appeal to give the trial court the opportunity to correct any errors before they become fundamental errors.
Writing for the majority, Judge John Baker highlighted the frequent misuse of the fundamental error doctrine.
“Nevertheless, this Court cannot ignore the alarming trend of questionable fundamental error claims,” Baker wrote. “For instance, it is not uncommon for a criminal defendant to argue on appeal that the introduction of evidence amounted to a fundamental error whenever the defendant failed to object to its admission at trial.”
Juvenile – Evidence/Videotaped Confession
R.W. v. State of Indiana
The true finding that a juvenile committed an act that would constitute the offense of attempted burglary, a Class B felony, was reversed by the Indiana Court of Appeals on the grounds the trial court made a fundamental error in admitting into evidence the juvenile’s videotaped confession.
The COA remanded with instructions for the trial court to enter a true finding of criminal mischief.
R.W., the juvenile, was caught by a homeowner after he broke a window and tried to reach through the shattered glass to lift the window. The homeowner knew R.W. and an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer found the juvenile, took him to a roll call location for an interview, and contacted his mother.
The juvenile and his mother were given a waiver-of-rights form which they signed incorrectly. In the ensuing recorded interview, R.W. admitted that he attempted to break into the house in order to steal Xbox games.
The state filed a delinquency petition in conjunction with this incident alleging that R.W. had committed acts that would constitute the offenses of burglary as a Class B felony and criminal mischief as a Class B misdemeanor if committed by an adult.
When the state sought to introduce R.W’s videotaped confession, the juvenile objected on the grounds that neither he nor his mother was asked as to each individual right if they understood the consequences of giving those up.
On appeal, R.W. claimed the confession was inadmissible because the waiver form does not indicate that his mother waived R.W.’s rights. He acknowledged he objected to the introduction of the confession on different grounds for the appeal than he did at trial, but he argued the admission constituted a fundamental error.
The Court of Appeals agreed, finding the only evidence supporting the true finding of attempted burglary is the videotaped confession. The court concluded the trial court committed fundamental error in admitting R.W.’s videotaped confession and the true finding must be reversed.
However, the court did find sufficient evidence exists to establish the remaining elements of burglary which also constitute every element of the offense of criminal mischief.
Criminal – Animal Cruelty
Steven Duncan v. State of Indiana
An Evansville man convicted of six counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty due to the condition of horses on his property did not knowingly waive his right to a jury trial and, therefore, is entitled to a new trial, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded.
Evansville Animal Care and Control went to Steven Duncan’s property to investigate a complaint and found 13 horses that appeared to be neglected, malnourished and ill. Three later had to be euthanized. Duncan admitted to owning and being responsible for the animals, but he offered no explanation for their conditions.
He was charged with 13 counts of Class A misdemeanor animal cruelty. At his initial hearing, Duncan appeared pro se. The judge noted Duncan’s right to a jury trial but did not mention the requirement to timely request a jury trial if one was desired or the consequences of failing to do so. Duncan later was represented by counsel, who did not request a jury trial.
Duncan was convicted of six of the 13 charges.
The Court of Appeals rejected the state’s arguments that Duncan was not prejudiced, that he consented to his counsel’s trial strategy and cannot now object, and that the judges should infer that Duncan was informed of his right to a jury trial because he was later represented by counsel.
But the state conceded that Duncan was not advised of the consequences of failing to ask for a jury trial and he was not advised of the requirement of a written demand for a jury trial 10 days before his scheduled trial date, Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote. Having an attorney is not a sufficient substitute for the defendant being expressly advised of his rights, she noted.
The COA also addressed two points raised by Duncan on appeal that may impact his new jury trial – whether the animal cruelty statute is unconstitutionally vague and whether there was sufficient evidence to overcome a defense of necessity.
The judges found the statute is not vague as applied to Duncan and the state presented sufficient probative evidence from which a reasonable trier of fact could have found Duncan guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. They remanded for a jury trial.
Criminal – Speedy Trial/Drugs
Scott F. West v. State of Indiana
The Indiana Court of Appeals found that Scott F. West is entitled to discharge under Indiana Criminal Rule 4(C) because he was held to answer on marijuana charges for more than a year without a trial date while his motion to suppress awaited a ruling.
West was charged in June 2009 and moved to suppress evidence in December 2009. A trial date set for March 1, 2010, was pushed back as well as the suppression hearing originally scheduled for February 2010. In June 2010, the court invited West to request a continuance to allow time for post-hearing submissions and the court’s ruling regarding the motion to suppress.
Then the case sat for a year with no activity. The original judge, Clay Circuit Judge Joseph Trout, was removed, and Judge Blaine Akers was appointed special judge in November 2011. In December 2011, West moved for discharge under Rule 4(C), which Akers denied.
On interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed. Even though West’s motion to suppress caused the initial delay in the original trial date, the year that passed with no activity before West sought a new judge can not be attributed to West, Senior Judge Randall Shepard wrote.
The appellate court rejected the state’s claim that West caused the delay by asking the court for an indefinite continuance of the June 14, 2010, trial date during the June 2010 suppression hearing. The court prompted him to move for the continuance, Shepard pointed out, and the transcript of the hearing shows that the parties and the court expected that a trial wouldn’t be set until the court ruled on the suppression motion. It was reasonable for West to expect the court would rule on his motion and that he would, if necessary, be timely tried.
The state had to bring West to trial within one year under Rule 4(C). It could have filed a praecipe under Trial Rule 53.1 for withdrawal of submission and transfer to the Supreme Court to appoint a special judge; West was not obliged to ask for a trial date, Shepard wrote.
Criminal – Admissibility of Statements/Robbery
Moise Joseph v. State of Indiana
The Indiana Court of Appeals found the Vanderburgh Circuit Court abused its discretion in admitting at trial statements a defendant made to a police detective.
Moise Joseph was convicted of Class A felony burglary resulting in serious bodily injury, Class B felony attempted armed robbery, and Class B felony criminal confinement for his role in a home invasion. Police came to his apartment to investigate the robbery after discovering his car was parked in a Sonic Drive-In lot near the home that was robbed.
An apartment complex manager let officers into Joseph’s home, where they handcuffed him, read him his Miranda rights, and asked him where he was earlier in the morning, when the home invasion occurred. Joseph said he was approached by two men about buying an Xbox gaming system for $5. After going to the police station, Joseph was again read his Miranda rights and again repeated his statement about the Xbox, but denied being involved in the robbery.
At trial, Joseph moved to suppress all evidence recovered in his apartment as well as his statements to police. The Circuit Court suppressed all evidence recovered from the apartment as well as his statements made to police at his apartment, but denied the motion with respect to the statement made to detective Ron Brown at the station.
The state conceded that the warrantless entry into Joseph’s home “may have well been without” probable cause and there weren’t any exigent circumstances to overcome the presumption of unreasonableness.
The appellate judges determined that Joseph’s statements to Brown were not sufficiently attenuated to dissipate any taint of the illegal search. While he was read his Miranda rights, Joseph was in constant police custody from the time to police officers initiated the illegal search of his apartment and he was aware their search resulted in the discovery of potentially relevant evidence, Judge Cale Bradford wrote.
He also made prior potentially incriminating statements to the police officers at his apartment, so the COA concluded that Joseph’s comments to the detective weren’t sufficiently attenuated from the apartment search to dissipate any taint of illegal police conduct.
Criminal – Batson Challenge/Age of Jurors
Willie Bigsbee v. State of Indiana
A trial court did not err in overruling a defendant’s Batson objection to the removal of two African-Americans from the jury during his trial for drug charges, the Court of Appeals held.
Willie Bigsbee challenged his two convictions of Class A felony dealing in cocaine, claiming the court should have granted his Batson challenge and that the evidence didn’t support his convictions.
Bigsbee was arrested and charged with three counts of Class A felony dealing in cocaine following his sale of drugs to a confidential informant. The jury couldn’t reach a verdict on the first count, which addressed Bigsbee’s interaction with the informant in December 2010.
The state struck an African-American man and an African-American woman – two of four African-Americans – from the venire panel. The state struck the man from the panel because he seemed confused and to be asleep at one point; it struck the woman from the panel because she was 18 years old and did not think there was a drug problem in the area. The state noted it had also struck two Caucasian members of the panel due to their relatively young ages.
The trial court overruled Bigsbee’s Batson objection, which the COA upheld. He claimed Batson should be used to bar parties from using preemptory strikes to remove potential jurors on the basis of age, but the appellate court quickly dismissed his claim. The court cited Price v. State, 725 N.E. 2d 82, 87 (Ind. 2000), which held challenging a juror due to his or her young age does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, and “we are not free to disregard our Supreme Court’s precedent,” Senior Judge Betty Barteau wrote.
There was also sufficient evidence to establish that Bigsbee sold cocaine to the confidential informant on two occasions.
Civil Tort – Fraternity Hazing/Duty Owed
Brian Yost v. Wabash College, Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity, Inc., Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity – Indiana Gamma Chapter at Wabash College, and Nathan Cravens
Two Indiana Court of Appeals judges found that an incident involving “showering” at a Wabash College fraternity in 2007 – which led to injuries to a freshman pledge – were not considered hazing under Indiana law. Judge Nancy Vaidik, who dissented, found the majority’s view of pledging and hazing “far too restrictive.”
Brian Yost sued Wabash College, his fraternity Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity’s national chapter, and fraternity brother Nathan Cravens for personal and mental injuries he sustained in an incident at the house. Yost and his fraternity pledge brothers wanted to throw an upperclassman brother into a near by creek, which is called “creeking,” to celebrate his 21st birthday. After being unsuccessful, four upperclassman brothers decided to carry Yost to the shower and run water on him, which is called “showering.” When to perform both activities is explained in the pledge handbook. This incident of “showering” was spontaneous.
While trying to “shower” Yost, Cravens placed Yost in a chokehold, causing him to lose consciousness. The other brothers dropped Yost’s body on the floor. The incident led to Yost eventually withdrawing from college.
The trial court granted Wabash College and the Phi Kappa Psi defendants’ motions for summary judgment, which Judges Terry Crone and Cale Bradford affirmed. Summary judgment was not entered for Cravens, and he is not participating in the appeal.
Yost maintained the incident surrounding his injuries was hazing and those defendants turned a blind eye and owed him a duty of reasonable care. The majority opinion noted that no Indiana court has specifically addressed liability for university and fraternities based on allegations of injuries stemming from an incident involving hazing.
But the majority found that this incident did not amount to hazing under Indiana’s criminal anti-hazing law or other foreseeable criminal conduct, and that the activities that night were impromptu and not keeping with the parameters specified in the pledge manual.
“We agree that a college cannot simply turn a blind eye to inherently dangerous activities on its campus; neither can a fraternity ignore such activities within its walls. Nevertheless, we reiterate that such institutions/organizations are not guarantors or insurers of their adult student-members’ safety, and we reject the notion that all fraternities should be impugned based on the activities of a few,” Crone wrote for the majority, which found that the defendants did not breach any duty owed to Yost.
In her dissent, Vaidik found genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Wabash and the Phi Psi fraternity owed Yost a duty of care, and whether the events of that night constituted criminal hazing that were reasonably foreseeable to Wabash. She wrote that there is an issue of fact on whether the Phi Psi house assumed a duty of care to Yost.
She noted since the early 2000s, there have been 15 reported instances of hazing that Wabash was aware of and took action on – three of which directly involved the Phi Psi house.
“All said, I believe that the designated facts could reasonably lead a trier of fact to conclude that hazing occurred here – hazing that both Phi Psi and Wabash had a duty to stop yet ignored,” she wrote.•