7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Civil – Murder/Writ of Habeas Corpus
Troy R. Shaw v. Bill Wilson
Finding that an appellate attorney opted for a “hopeless sufficiency challenge” instead of the obvious claim challenging the validity of an amended information that elevated a charge to murder, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the denial by the federal court of the man’s petition for writ of habeas corpus.
Troy Shaw was 18 years old in 2000 when he was working selling magazine subscriptions as part of a traveling team. His group was staying in a hotel when several of the team members attacked an uninvited stranger in the room. The man was chased outside and beaten to death. Shaw and two other men were charged with aggravated battery, although Shaw denied being involved in the attack. The two other men agreed to testify against Shaw, which led to the state seeking to elevate his charge from aggravated battery to murder.
Shaw’s trial attorney challenged the amendment of the information, claiming it was barred under basis of Indiana Code 35-34-1-5 (1982), a statute that had long limited prosecutors’ discretion to amend pending charges. The version of the statute then in effect specified that an amendment of “substance” could be made up to 30 days before the “omnibus date” and an amendment of mere “form” could be made even later if not prejudicial. The amendment wasn’t proposed in Shaw’s case until 17 months later, but the trial court allowed it.
Shaw was convicted and public defender Gregory Miller handled his appeal. Instead of raising the amendment issue, Miller instead argued that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. Shaw’s conviction was upheld on appeal and by the post-conviction court. He then sought relief in federal court, which denied his habeas petition.
In Troy R. Shaw v. Bill Wilson, 12-1628, the 7th Circuit reversed the denial of Shaw’s petition, finding Shaw was prejudiced by Miller’s choice of reasoning on appeal.
“The bottom line is that attorney Miller was faced with two potential arguments, one undeniably frivolous and the other solidly based on a state statute and reinforced by the Indiana Supreme Court’s pronouncement in Haak. In the face of this choice, Miller opted for the hopeless sufficiency challenge,” Judge Diane Wood wrote.
“Once again, it is necessary only to conclude that the amendment issue was clearly stronger than the sufficiency argument, and we have no trouble coming to that conclusion based on both the language of the statute and the Indiana Supreme Court’s Haak decision.”
Shaw demonstrated prejudice as he had a reasonable chance of success on appeal but for Miller’s deficient performance. The court remanded with instructions to issue a writ of habeas corpus unless the state grants Shaw a new appeal within 120 days after issuance of the mandate.
Criminal – Armed Career Criminal Act
United States of America v. Michael L. Brock
A man’s conviction on federal firearm charges was vacated when the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that possession of machine guns was not violent crime, citing a case earlier this year that applied the same rationale to possession of sawed-off shotguns.
The appellate panel vacated the mandatory minimum 15-year sentence imposed on Michael L. Brock by Judge Larry J. McKinney of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The judges remanded the case for resentencing after Brock was convicted of violating the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1).
“In United States v. Upton, 512 F.3d 394 (7th Cir. 2008), we held that unlawful possession of a sawed-off shotgun counted as a violent felony under ACCA. Applying Upton, the District Court ruled that possessing a machine gun was also a violent felony and that Mr. Brock’s three separate convictions for possessing machine guns triggered ACCA,” Judge David Hamilton wrote for the court in United States of America v. Michael L. Brock, 11-3473.
“Although the district court properly applied controlling circuit law, we have recently overruled Upton on this point, holding now that unlawful possession of a sawed-off shotgun no longer counts as a violent felony,” the court opined, citing United States v. Miller, ___ F.3d ___ (7th Cir. 2013). “The reasoning of Miller applies equally to unlawful possession of a machine gun, so we vacate Mr. Brock’s sentence and remand for sentencing.”
The court noted that ACCA requires use of explosives to qualify as a violent felony, and the Miller ruling brings consistency to the range of weapons covered by the act. “(A)s dangerous as all these weapons can be, we see no principled basis for distinguishing between sawed-off shotguns and machine guns in terms of whether mere possession is a violent felony under ACCA. We must therefore vacate Mr. Brock’s sentence. He is entitled to be resentenced without being subject to the enhanced penalties of ACCA,” Hamilton wrote.
On a separate argument, the 7th Circuit ruled that Brock’s wife’s testimony against him did not violate the spousal testimonial privilege because she testified at his pretrial detention hearing.
“Given the importance of the spousal testimonial privilege, it would also be entirely appropriate and often prudent for the court, even in the absence of an objection, to make sure that the testifying spouse understands that she cannot be required to testify against her spouse, especially if she does not have her own counsel,” Hamilton cautioned. In this case, Brock lacked standing because his wife waived the privilege, the court ruled.
Civil – Religious Discrimination
Sikiru Adeyeye v. Heartland Sweeteners, LLC
See expanded coverage on page 3.
Criminal – Sentencing/Ex Post Facto
Bernard Hawkins v. United States of America
A majority of nine 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judges narrowly denied rehearing en banc for an Indiana man whose sentence was erroneously calculated. A dissenting judge called the case a “miscarriage of justice.”
The petition for a rehearing en banc divided Circuit judges 5-4. Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook and Circuit Judges Michael Kanne, Richard Posner, Diane Sykes and John Tinder denied rehearing, while Judges David Hamilton, Ilana Rovner, Ann Claire Williams and Diane Wood dissented. Judge Joel Flaum took no part in the case, Bernard Hawkins v. United States of America, 11-1245.
Earlier this year, Hawkins was denied resentencing in a post-conviction relief proceeding on a conviction enhanced as a career offender, even though that distinction didn’t apply to him. At the time of his sentencing, he was considered a career offender because he had two “walkaway” escape convictions. He was sentenced to 151 months by Judge James Moody of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana, the bottom of the guideline range. If he wasn’t considered a career offender, the guideline range for the assault would have been anywhere from 15 to 30 months.
Hawkins sought a rehearing en banc after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Peugh v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2707 (2013). Justices ruled 5-4 that the ex post facto clause prevents courts from sentencing a defendant based on guidelines promulgated after the commission of a crime if the newer guidelines would result in a sentencing range higher than those in place when a crime was committed.
“The issue in this case differs from that in Peugh in several respects,” Posner wrote for the majority. “One is that Peugh involved constitutional error — a violation of the ex post facto clause. Our case involves no claim of constitutional error — no claim for example that Hawkins’s sentence exceeded the statutory maximum … There is just a claim that the sentencing judge miscalculated the advisory guidelines range and might have given a lower sentence had he not miscalculated it.
“Our panel opinion does not deny that the district judge had committed an error that would be corrigible on direct review. But we found the social interest in a belated correction of the error outweighed by the social interest in the finality of judicial decisions, including sentences,” Posner wrote.
“The panel dissent evinced no recognition of the importance of finality to an effective judicial system, or of the difficulty of balancing “fairness” (meaning what exactly?) against finality. … Finality is an institutional value and it is tempting to subordinate such a value to the equities of the individual case. But there are dangers, especially if so vague a term as ‘fairness’ is to be the touchstone.”
But Rovner, in dissent, said the case was less about fairness than about the court saving face.
“Bernard Hawkins has been sitting in a Federal Correctional Institution, where he is scheduled to remain for approximately twelve-and-a-half years. It is uncontroverted that the district court erred when it calculated his sentence using the career offender enhancement, and had the court not erred, his calculated sentencing range would have been approximately ten times less — somewhere in the range of 15-21 months. Yet despite the known and conceded error, we are told that for the sake of principles of finality, Hawkins must remain in prison for the entire 151-month sentence,” Rovner wrote.
“In light of (Peugh), and for the reasons articulated in the dissent to the panel opinion, I believe it is our duty to reconsider Mr. Hawkins’ case.
“The district court erred in finding that Hawkins was a career criminal. Such an error constitutes a miscarriage of justice that can be remedied via petition for relief under § 2255, and, regardless of their advisory nature, the Sentencing Guidelines are influential enough that errors in their calculation cause harm. The Supreme Court’s reasoning in Peugh — which is consistent with the tenets of fairness that are the quintessence of our system of justice — calls for us to rehear this case,” Rovner wrote.
Criminal – Habeas Petition/Judge Recusal
Anthony Weddington v. Dushan Zatecky, Superintendent
Although a prisoner filed his habeas petition late, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the District Court should not have dismissed it on procedural grounds.
The 7th Circuit vacated the dismissal of Anthony Weddington’s petition and remanded to the court for further proceedings.
The court spent considerable time in its opinion mulling over whether or not Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, should have recused herself from the hearing on Weddington’s petition.
Weddington was charged in 2002 with four counts of rape, four counts of criminal deviate conduct, and two counts of criminal confinement. The charges were severed into two separate trials.
Pratt, then a Marion Superior Court judge, presided over the first trial in September 2003. Weddington was convicted and Pratt sentenced him to 73 years.
The second trial in 2005 also resulted in a conviction. Six years later, Weddington filed a pro se habeas petition under 28 U.S. Code 2254, challenging his 2005 conviction. He claims the trial court erred in denying a motion to suppress all evidence from a January 2002 traffic stop.
Weddington argued that the one-year limit on filing should not apply to his petition or bar it because, while he was in prison, his legal paper work, law books and legal mail were all confiscated and withheld from him.
When Weddington’s petition arrived in federal court, Pratt was sitting on the bench. She denied his petition, finding Weddington was barred by the statute of limitations.
In examining Pratt’s participation, the 7th Circuit notes although Weddington was challenging the 2005 conviction, the criminal charges were closely related to the 2003 case.
“Review of the habeas petition on the merits may require Judge Pratt to review the 2005 proceedings with respect to a suppression motion aimed at the same stop and search as the one involved in the suppression motion on which she ruled in the 2003 case,” the court wrote. “In our view, this could seriously affect the fairness and public reputation of the judicial proceedings and create an appearance of impropriety.”
However, the court remanded the case for different reasons. Specifically, it ruled the District Court erred in failing to consider whether the limitation period was equitably tolled by the state’s alleged confiscation of Weddington’s legal papers.
The 7th Circuit noted the appearance of bias can be remedied by assignment of a different District judge on remand.
Indiana Supreme Court
Civil Tort – Filing Fees
Ann L. Miller and Richard A. Miller v. Glenn L. Dobbs, D.O. and Partners in Health
In overturning the trial court’s ruling, the Indiana Supreme Court compared the case to Poor Richard’s admonition: “For want of a Nail the Shoe was lost; for want of a Shoe, the Horse was lost; and for want of a Horse the Rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy, all for want of Care about a Horse-shoe Nail.”
Ann and Richard Miller filed a medical malpractice complaint to the Indiana Department of Insurance by certified mail on March 18, 2008. After discovering the $7 statutory filing and processing fees were not included, the department sent the Millers’ attorney a letter on March 31 stating the mandatory fees needed to be sent within 30 days and that the complaint would “not be considered filed with the Department until the filing fees…[were] received.”
When the Millers’ attorney received the letter April 4, he immediately sent the check. On April 7, the department received the check and re-file-stamped the proposed complaint April 7.
The defendants subsequently raised an affirmative defense of the statute of limitations and moved for summary judgment on that basis. They argued the Millers’ proposed complaint was untimely because it did not receive the requisite filing and processing fees until April 7, three days after the statutory period ended.
The Supreme Court disagreed. It pointed to the language of the “Statute of Limitations” chapter of the state’s Medical Malpractice Act which states that “a proposed complaint under Indiana Code 34-18-8 is considered filed when a copy of the proposed complaint is delivered or mailed by registered or certified mail to the commissioner.”
This, the court held, suggests that a proposed complaint is considered filed regardless of whether the required fees are submitted with it.
“Ultimately, as we read the statute, it does not mandate that the Millers’ claim is lost for want of this seven-dollar horse-shoe nail,” Justice Massa wrote for the court. “We therefore reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and remand this case for further proceedings consistent with our opinion.”
Indiana Court of Appeals
Miscellaneous – Tax Deed
Farmers Mutual Insurance Company of Grant and Blackford Counties v. M Jewell, LLC, Auditor of Grant County, Indiana and Treasurer of Grant County, Indiana
The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected a trial court’s reasoning in denying a petition to set aside a tax deed that a county auditor was excused of the duties imposed under statute because compliance wouldn’t have resulted in a property owner actually receiving notice of a tax sale.
Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. of Grant and Blackford Counties appealed the denial of its motion to set aside a tax deed issued to M. Jewell LLC on farm property Farmers Mutual was delinquent in paying taxes on. The auditor’s records on the property incorrectly listed Farmers Mutual’s name, and the company did not update its mailing address with the auditor when its P.O. Box was closed.
The auditor sent by certified mail and first class mail notices of the tax sale on the property to Farmers Mutual, but those came back undelivered. The auditor’s office did not then perform a search for a possible address for the company, as required under I.C. 6-1.1-24-4.
The trial court noted that the auditor had not carried out the duties imposed under statute, but determined that the failure was excusable because compliance with the statute would not have resulted in Farmers Mutual actually receiving notice.
“Putting aside the question of whether the auditor’s office would have discovered an alternate address for Farmers Mutual had it performed the requisite search, we cannot agree that noncompliance with the statute’s requirement that the auditor’s office search its records may be excused if it is later determined that such a search would have been fruitless,” Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote.
The trial court also concluded that Farmers Mutual was not entitled to have the tax deed set aside due to its failure to comply with its statutory obligation to notify the auditor’s office of its correct address.
“Indeed, if we were to adopt such an approach, the requirement that the auditor’s office search its records for a more accurate or complete address in the event that the pre-tax sale notices are returned due to an incorrect or insufficient address would be meaningless; this is so because the very fact that the mailings have been returned means, in most cases, that the property owner has failed to provide a correct address,” the judge continued.
The COA ordered the lower court to grant Farmers Mutual’s petition.
Adoption – Visitation
In Re the Adoption of: P.A.H., f/k/a P.V., Minor Child, B.D. and L.H.C., v. J.H.
An uncle’s post-adoption visitation rights were overturned on the grounds that he was not within any statutory category of individuals entitled to visitation rights.
The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court’s order granting post-adoption visitation to J.H., the biological uncle of the minor child, P.H.
After the parental rights of P.H.’s biological parents were terminated, the adoptive parents, B.D. and L.H.C. as well as J.H. filed separate petitions to adopt. The trial court granted adoption of P.H. to B.D. and L.H.C. and visitation rights to J.H.
The adoptive parents appealed.
Pointing to the Indiana Supreme Court’s previously expressed opinion that the custodial and parental relationship right to visitation should extend only to stepparents, the Court of Appeals found J.H. had no statutory standing to be allowed to see his niece.
The appeals court concluded since the trial court lacked authority to grant post-adoption visitation rights to J.H., the portion of its order granting such visitation is void ad initio.
Criminal – Fourth Amendment/Evidence
Adam Miller v. State of Indiana
No possibility of danger or smell of marijuana was evident, and that was enough to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals to suppress evidence found during a police officer’s search of a motorist’s backpack.
The COA reversed the trial court’s denial of Adam Miller’s motion to suppress. A majority of the court held the trial court erred, but in his dissent, Judge Cale Bradford countered there was probable cause to search Miller’s backpack.
Miller was pulled over by Bloomington police officer Jordan Hasler for driving with an expired license plate sticker. When Hasler decided to tow the car because of its expired sticker, Miller said he needed to retrieve his cell phone and backpack from inside the car. The officer got the backpack and as he searched it for weapons, found marijuana and a smoking device that emitted burnt marijuana odor.
Miller was arrested and charged with possession of paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor.
In his motion to suppress the evidence, Miller alleged, in part, violations of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. When the trial court denied Miller’s motion, the defendant filed a motion to correct error and a motion to certify the trial court’s order for interlocutory appeal.
Miller appealed, arguing the officer’s warrantless search of the backpack was not based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or reasonable safety concerns.
The Court of Appeals agreed. It noted when a search is conducted without a warrant, the state has the burden of proving that an exception to the warrant requirement existed. In this instance, the officer could not point to articulable facts supporting either a suspicion of criminal activity or a concern over the possibility of harm.
Subsequently, the COA ruled that the search of Miller’s backpack was impermissible under the Fourth Amendment.
The court of appeals rejected the trial court’s reasoning that the search falls within the automobile exception. It found there is no evidence that the odor of marijuana emanated from the vehicle and Hasler did not testify that the vehicle smelled of marijuana.
In his dissent, Bradford maintained the search was supported by probable cause that contraband might be found in the impounded car.
Bradford stated that even though Hasler did not indicate he detected the odor of burnt marijuana coming from Miller’s vehicle, Hasler did detect the odor of burnt marijuana on Miller and Miller’s actions during the traffic stop were suspicious and raised a reasonable inference that his vehicle contained contraband.
Civil Plenary – Wrongful Death
Michael E. Lyons, Ind; Denita L. Lyons, Ind.; Michael E. Lyons and Denita L. Lyons, as Co-personal Rep. of the Estate of Megan Renee Lyons, Deceased v. Richmond Community School Corp. Et Al.
The Indiana Court of Appeals granted a rehearing in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against a public school corporation by the family of a student with Down syndrome who died after choking at school, refining a question to be presented to a jury.
The COA ruled in May that the question of whether the Lyonses complied with the Indiana Tort Claims Act should be decided by a jury.
The court issued a two-page order that clarified the earlier ruling.
“On remand, the trial court … should determine whether, in the exercise of ordinary diligence, Appellants/Plaintiffs Michael and Denita Lyons could have learned of RCSC’s alleged ‘tortious acts’ prior to July 15, 2009. Wehling v. Citizens Nat’l Bank, 586 N.E.2d 840, 843 (Ind. 1992). July 15, 2009, was 180 days before the Lyonses filed notice of their claims on January 11, 2010. In all other respects, we reaffirm our original disposition.”
Criminal – Prosecutorial Conduct/Fair Trial
Bruce Ryan v. State of Indiana
A man convicted of sexual misconduct with a minor will get a new trial after the Indiana Court of Appeals found the prosecutor’s zealous statements made to a jury during closing arguments deprived the man of a fair trial.
The Court of Appeals concluded the prosecutor committed misconduct that resulted in a fundamental error. Subsequently, it reversed Ryan’s two convictions for Class C felony sexual misconduct with a minor and remanded for a new trial.
“We have concluded that the prosecutor improperly commented on Ryan’s constitutional right to a jury trial; improperly disparaged defense counsel, the role of defense counsel, and our system of justice; improperly urged the jury to convict Ryan for reasons other than his guilt; and improperly vouched for Z.W-B.’s truthfulness,” Judge Terry Crone wrote for the court. “The State argues that no fundamental error occurred because the evidence of sexual misconduct was overwhelming and demonstrates that the results would have been the same without the prosecutor’s comments. We are unpersuaded.”
Ryan was convicted of two counts of Class C felony sexual misconduct with a minor after Z.W-B’s parents discovered emails from Ryan to their daughter and allegations of a romantic relationship emerged.
The COA found the state did not provide independent evidence that Ryan performed or submitted to touching Z.W-B in order to arouse or satisfy their sexual desires. Instead, the prosecutor made a series of statements that taken together deprived Ryan of a fair trial.
Civil Tort – New Trial/Expert Testimony
Don H. Dumont, M.D., v. Penny Davis and Nicole Anderson, as Co-Administratrixes of the Estate of Charmitta Jordan, Deceased
In reviewing a dispute over testimony given by expert witnesses, the Indiana Court of Appeals sees no reason to hold a new trial.
The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s judgment. The appeals court found the lower court erred by granting the plaintiffs a new trial.
Following the death of Charmitta Jordan, her family filed a wrongful death action against Don Dumont, M.D. When the jury returned a verdict for Dumont, the family requested a new trial alleging Dumont’s counsel failed to disclose the identification and opinions of two expert witnesses prior to the disclosure deadline.
In particular, the family contended that Michael Ehrie, M.D., who testified as an expert witness for Dumont, should not have been questioned as a pathologist but only as a pulmonologist.
Dumont argued the family and the court was given advanced notice that his intention was to question Ehrie as a pathologist. Namely, Dumont said he would be asking Ehrie histological opinions and did give the court Ehrie’s curriculum vitae which notes he is a pathologist.
After the family objected to Ehrie’s testimony during the trial, the lower court stopped the questioning of him as a pathologist and struck his testimony, instructing the jury not to consider his opinions as a pathologist.
The Court of Appeals found the trial court abused its discretion when it excluded Ehrie’s entire testimony as a pathologist.
The COA conceded that although the intention to examine Ehrie was disclosed well beyond the pre-trial order’s deadline, the notice was still made six months before the trial date, giving the family more than enough time to depose the doctor.
Also, the appeals court pointed out that during the pre-trial hearing, the family indicated they suspected Ehrie would be examined outside of his previously disclosed expertise in pulmonology but, still, they did not change their preparations for trial.
In addition, even if Dumont committed misconduct, that error was corrected when the family objected leading the trial court to exclude the testimony and admonish the jury to disregard Ehrie’s statements.
Criminal – Evidence/Corrupt Business Influence
Seth A. Miller v. State of Indiana
The Indiana Court of Appeals has found that an impromptu burglary spree that lasted less than 48 hours does not meet requirements for a corrupt business influence conviction.
Seth Miller was convicted on four counts – corrupt business influence, burglary of a dwelling, and two counts of theft – after he and a friend stole items from a home and a car and then attempted to purchase items with a stolen credit card.
Miller appealed only his conviction for corrupt business influence.
The COA agreed, finding the evidence in the case failed to establish the necessary element of an enterprise according to the meaning of the state’s statute. It reversed the conviction for corrupt business influence and vacated the sentence of eight years.
The court reviewed the Indiana Code and several court opinions, finding the corrupt business influence statute requires, “(1) a knowing or intentional degree of participation (2) in an enterprise (3) through a pattern of racketeering activity.”
In Miller’s case, the Court of Appeals concluded there was no evidence that Miller and his friend had burglarized homes before and no indication they planned to repeat their escapade.
The events occurred in a very brief period of time. In addition, there was scant evidence of a pattern of racketeering activity.
Civil Plenary – Environmental Cleanup
Northern Assurance Co. of America, Successor in Interest to Certain Liabilites of Employers Surplus Lines Ins. Co. v. Thomson Inc. k/n/a Technicolor, USA, Inc., Technicolor Inc.,/Technicolor Limited
Using California law, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that an insurance company does not have to pay for an environmental cleanup, but the court noted it did not agree with the position of the Golden State and it would have ruled differently if Indiana law had been applicable.
The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Technicolor USA, Inc. and remanded with instructions to grant summary judgment in favor of Employers Surplus Lines Insurance Co.
Judge John Baker dissented.
At issue was whether Indiana or California law applied.
Technicolor was seeking coverage for environmental cleanup at three sites, two of which were located in California. Its connection to Indiana comes through Thomson, Inc., a corporation with ties to Indiana that acquired Technicolor assets in 2000.
Eventually, the film company brought suit against ESLIC, claiming that under Indiana law some of the environmental spills happened during the time that ESLIC’s policies were in place.
ESLIC argued that California law should apply when interpreting its policies and that under California law there was no coverage.
In a previous environmental dispute, the COA issued a summary judgment in favor of the insurer. The appeals court ruled in Thomson Inc. v. Continental Cas. Co. 982 N.E.2d 4, 6 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012), that under California law, the umbrella policy “damages” were limited to those that came from courtroom litigation and did not provide coverage for environmental contamination.
On the basis of the previous decision, the COA agreed with ESLIC. The court pointed out that most of the polluted sites are in California and all of the ESLIC policies were mailed to Technicolor’s California address.
Still the majority highlighted its opposition to the California law.
“We note here that we do not agree with the position California law takes on this matter,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote. “In fact, we agree with the arguments Technicolor made at oral argument that it is a waste of resources to require an insured to fight an administrative order in court in order to receive coverage under an insurance policy. Indeed, this court has formally come to this conclusion when applying Indiana law.”
In his dissent, Baker agrees with the majority to apply California law but disputes how the law is being interpreted. He argued that in light of the Golden State’s leadership on environmental issues and the opinions from its courts, California would likely apply its law to have insurance companies pay for cleanup.
“…I believe that if the California Supreme Court was presented with this case at this time, it would no longer permit ill-advised precedent from giving its environmental law the full and complete effect it was intended to have,” Baker wrote.
Criminal – Traffic Stop/Reasonable Suspicion
Brad Kroft v. State of Indiana
An Indiana State Police trooper who pulled over a Jeep because a hole in its tail lamp emitted white light lacked probable cause to initiate the traffic stop that resulted in drunken-driving charges.
On interlocutory appeal, a panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed Marion Superior Judge Becky Pierson-Treacy’s denial of a motion to suppress evidence gathered in the Northside Indianapolis traffic stop. After the stop, driver Brad Kroft was charged with Class A misdemeanor operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent of 0.15 or more, and Class C misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
During a trial court hearing on his motion to suppress, Kroft presented as evidence a photo of the tail lamp that had a dime-sized hole but nonetheless emitted red light. I.C. 9-19-6-4 requires vehicles to have two tail lamps that, when lighted, emit a red light plainly visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear.
Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the panel, “Because both tail lamps worked and the tail lamp with the tiny hole was overwhelmingly red when illuminated, we find that the state trooper did not have reasonable suspicion to stop Kroft. We therefore reverse the trial court’s denial of Kroft’s motion to suppress.” ISP Trooper Mike McCreary testified that he stopped Kroft’s vehicle because he believed that a broken tail lamp was a violation of the law. In the six-page opinion, Vaidik cited State v. Sitts, 926 N.E.2d 1118, 1120 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010): “an officer’s mistaken belief about what constitutes a violation does not amount to good faith. Such discretion is not constitutionally permissible.” “Based on Trooper McCreary’s testimony, there is simply no evidence of any danger to motorists approaching the Krofts from behind, as the State attempts to demonstrate on appeal,” Vaidik wrote.
Criminal – Sentence
Derek Hale v. State of Indiana
A Fulton County man who filed a writ of habeas corpus claiming he was falsely imprisoned won a reversal of a clarified sentencing order, with one Court of Appeals judge saying he should be freed entirely.
A majority of the appellate panel held that the trial court abused its discretion when it entered an order clarifying Hale’s sentence on a Class B felony possession of methamphetamine charge. The clarification by Fulton Superior Judge Wayne E. Steele added a year to the time Hale was ordered to serve on community corrections.
“To the extent that Judge Steele ‘clarified’ Hale’s sentence based upon his own recollection of what sentence he intended to impose, rather than examining the sentencing order and determining from it whether Hale was being detained illegally, we find that Judge Steele abused his discretion in ruling upon that petition,” according to the majority opinion written by Judge Elaine Brown and joined by Judge Patricia Riley.
The opinion held that upon Hale’s completion of two years on work release he will have accumulated four years of good-time credit against his 10-year suspended sentence, transition to home detention and serve on probation thereafter.
But Judge Cale Bradford said in dissent that Hale had made his case. “Because I believe that Hale met his burden of proof of showing that he is being illegally detained in the Fulton County work release program … and, as a result, is entitled to immediate release, I respectfully dissent,” Bradford wrote.
“In the instant matter, Hale’s verified petition stated that he had been confined in the work release program for more than one year and that he had earned one day of credit time for each day served. The confining authority did not present a return containing any evidence that would disprove the statements contained in Hale’s verified petition. As such, Hale’s complaint was sufficient to make a prima facie showing that he was entitled to immediate release because he had completed his two-year term of confinement in the work release program,” Bradford wrote.
Criminal – Firearm Seizure
Robert E. Redington v. State of Indiana
A man who behaved erratically, told far-fetched stories of seeing missing Indiana University student Lauren Spierer, and scoped out the place she was last seen alarmed Bloomington police enough that authorities took from him and his Indianapolis home 51 guns and ammunition.
The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the seizure in a 48-page opinion addressing a matter of first impression: Who may be considered dangerous enough under state law to have weapons taken from them without being criminally charged. Three judges wrote three opinions, but the majority affirmed the taking of Robert Redington’s weapons.
Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the majority that evidence of probative value exists from which Monroe Circuit Judge Mary Ellen Diekhoff could have determined by clear and convincing evidence that Redington was dangerous as defined by I.C. § 35-47-14-1(a)(2)(B), and accordingly it was within her discretion to order the Bloomington Police Department to retain Redington’s firearms pursuant to Ind. Code § 35-47-14-6(b).
Brown’s opinion, joined by a concurring opinion from Judge Cale Bradford, opens with eight pages outlining a recitation of Redington’s actions and statements that alarmed authorities. Among them, he drove frequently from Indianapolis to Bloomington, where police found him in a parking garage across the street from Kilroy’s Sports Bar looking at the place Spierer was last seen through a range-finder. He then chatted with police about their propensity with firearms from such distances.
Redington later told authorities he saw spirits, that he’d met Spierer years earlier at a gun range, and that he was investigating her disappearance. Detectives believed he was delusional and took him to IU Health Center in Bloomington. A doctor said Redington suffered from ‘a type of personality disorder called schizotypal,’ and perhaps a paranoid or delusional disorder.
Redington also had been removed multiple times from Kilroy’s, and the record also shows he’d been asked to leave various churches he attended.
During his psychiatric evaluation, officers seized the firearms from his home, and his license to carry a handgun was suspended.
“This case appears to be an issue of first impression, and, as recent events nationwide have demonstrated, poses a question of great public interest,” Brown wrote.
“We find that Redington continuing to own firearms threatens to inflict ‘particularized harm’ analogous to tortious injury on readily identifiable private interests.”
Bradford concurred in all respects. “However, I write simply to reiterate that while I have the utmost respect for the constitutionally protected right to bear arms, in the instant matter, I believe that the State met its burden of proving that Redington was ‘dangerous’ as defined by Indiana Code section 35-47-14-1,” he wrote. He noted Redington’s delusional thought patterns that continued despite his taking anti-psychotic medication.
In dissent, Judge Patricia Riley wrote that the state failed to meet its burden under the code that a person is dangerous if he “presents an imminent risk of personal injury” to himself or another. She noted that the psychologist who examined Redington after his involuntary commitment testified that he was released when it was determined he didn’t pose an imminent danger.
“The State provided no further probative evidence establishing otherwise,” Riley wrote. “I would therefore reverse the trial court.”•