The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected a defendant’s argument that he only agreed to a bench trial on one of the seven charges he faced following a violent altercation with his girlfriend.
Michael Johnson punched, kicked, and hit his girlfriend, I.B., after she came home in the early morning hours after being gone all night. He accused her of cheating on him, according to the court record. After beating her, he told her to “turn around” because he wanted to have sex. I.B. said she complied because she was afraid and didn’t want to get beaten again.
Johnson was charged with and convicted of Class B felonies criminal confinement and rape; Class C felony battery; Class D felonies intimidation and strangulation; and Class A misdemeanor interfering with the reporting of a crime.
He argued that he did not knowingly waive his right to a jury trial on all of his charges, the state abused its discretion in denying Johnson the right to cross-examine I.B. about past sexual conduct, and that the state didn’t prove he committed rape and intimidation.
Johnson’s written waiver only listed one count of Class B felony criminal confinement, which was the lead, most serious charge.
“It seems unlikely that Johnson would waive his right to a jury trial on his most serious charge and not on the rest,” Judge Rudolph Pyle III wrote in Michael Johnson v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1307-CR-562.
“Second, all of Johnson’s charges were a part of the same cause, and provision number 4 of the waiver states, ‘I hereby give up my constitutional rights to a trial by jury and ask that the case be tried by the Court without a jury.’ Under the plain language of this provision, Johnson agreed to waive his right to a jury trial of the entire case, not merely Class B felony criminal confinement. Third, Johnson’s attorney signed the waiver, which indicates that Johnson acted on the advice and information of his legal counsel when filing his waiver.”
Johnson also failed to object to being tried on all of his charges during his bench trial.
The judges also ruled Johnson was precluded from introducing evidence of I.B.’s prior sexual conduct at trial because he did not follow Evidence Rule 412’s procedural requirements. As such, he waived this issue on appeal. The judges also found the state provided sufficient evidence to support his convictions.
Judge Cale Bradford concurred in result in a separate opinion, noting that he would find Johnson waived any argument concerning I.B.’s testimony because he made no offer of proof as to what her testimony would have been.