COA orders new trial for woman who shot and killed pastor

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a guilty but mentally ill verdict against an Indianapolis woman who killed the pastor at her church because she believed he was part of a cartel that was pitted against her. The judges held Lori Ann Barcroft’s due process rights were violated when the judge entered that verdict.

Barcroft suffered from delusions and believed Pastor Jaman Iseminger was in cahoots with the Bush family and the Mexican mafia. After police arrested Barcroft for Iseminger’s murder, she told police she married a man at the head of a Columbian cocaine cartel and that the Bush family and Mexican mafia are her husband’s enemies. She said Iseminger was responsible for her father’s death, was a liar, and she was the “only one who could take care of Jaman.”

Barcroft went to the church in the early morning on May 19, 2012, and shot the pastor several times. He died from a gunshot wound to the chest. Police found her hiding nearby under tall weeds with multiple rounds of ammunition.

After being read her Miranda rights, Barcroft said it was “probably best” for her to remain silent and have a court appointed attorney and asked if it would be “derogatory against” her if she spoke to the detective, who said no. She then gave her statement, which included the complex and extensive system of beliefs and delusions that were later categorized as paranoid and grandiose delusions associated with schizophrenia.

Although initially found incompetent to stand trial, Barcroft was later restored to competency. The judge entered a guilty but mentally ill verdict, which Barcroft appealed. She argued at trial that she was insane.  

In reaching that verdict, the trial court said Barcroft initially requested an attorney, which suggests some comprehension of her legal jeopardy. But based on Doyle and Wainwright and other caselaw, any use of her statements about requesting an attorney as evidence of her sanity is a violation of her due process rights, the appeals court held.

“The trial court’s verdict explicitly found Barcroft’s request for an attorney as evidence supporting an inference of sanity. Because such evidence was clearly used to support the trial court’s verdict that Barcroft was guilty but mentally ill, we find that such error constituted a substantial, blatant violation of basic principles of due process rendering the trial unfair to Barcroft. The trial court, therefore, committed fundamental error. We reverse Barcroft’s conviction and remand for a new trial,” Judge James Kirsch wrote in Lori Ann Barcroft v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1405-CR-215.

Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote a separate concurring opinion in which he thought it was important to address whether Barcroft proved she was insane. Friedlander noted that the trial court’s conclusion that Barcroft had not proved by a preponderance of the evidence that she was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of her actions was not clear error.

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