COA upholds contempt charges in video conference

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a man’s contempt of court charges after it found just because a man was on video didn’t mean he couldn’t commit contempt and the evidence was enough to uphold the charges.

Mitchell Carroll was arrested in Grant County for several criminal charges. His preliminary hearing was held via video, and during it Carroll kept interrupting the court, saying the charges against him were “trumped up.” Eventually the court threatened contempt of court charges, including 30 days in jail. After he interrupted again, the court ended the hearing for the day and suspended it until the next day to give Carroll a chance to calm down.

During his trial, Carroll again began to interrupt the court when he asked for new counsel, and yet again when he accused the court of bias and aired numerous grievances. He interrupted repeatedly and the court, which had previously suspended his contempt charge and jail time, reinstated his charge and increased his jail time to 90 days. After receiving new counsel, Carroll appealed the order.

Carroll claimed a video-based hearing is not a setting in which direct contempt can occur, but the COA disagreed in a decision written by judge L. Mark Bailey. “Read as a whole, the statute requires that the disturbance create noise or confusion in a court of record while the court is conducting business — not that the individual who creates a disturbance be physically present in the courtroom.”

Bailey wrote there is also more than enough evidence to sustain Carroll’s charges of contempt. In the first hearing by video, he walked off camera and forced a continuation of the hearing the next day. In his second hearing, he made sounds which interrupted the hearing, interrupted the court several times while he was talked to, and attempted to intimidate a courtroom deputy.

The case is Mitchell Carroll v. State of Indiana, 27A02-1510-MI-1743


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