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Indiana Supreme Court deadlocks on protective order case

May 27, 2016

The Indiana Supreme Court reinstated an Indiana Court of Appeals decision in a protection order case it took on transfer after the four justices deadlocked on how to resolve the case.

The Court of Appeals in A.W. v. R.W., 29A02-1507-PO-856, vacated a protective order against a family member who police accused of sexual abuse against a child. In that case, Rhonda Wood sought a protective order against her half-sister Anna Wood. Rhonda Wood’s 7-year-old son told his nanny that Anna Wood touched his penis, but the COA ruled the trial court improperly relied on hearsay evidence from the nanny in that case.

“D.W.’s statement and Detective (Sarah) Harris’s opinion were the only probative evidence that Anna committed a sexual offense/domestic violence against D.W. Consequently, the trial court’s erroneous admission of this evidence affected Anna’s substantial rights and cannot be considered harmless. Therefore, we reverse and remand with instructions to vacate the protective order against Anna,” Judge Terry Crone wrote for the panel in the decision.

The Supreme Court uses initials to refer to parties in the case, whereas the COA used the full names of the adults involved.

The justices accepted jurisdiction of this case March 21 but were unable to come to a resolution without a fifth justice. This is the third case since Dickson retired the justices have been deadlocked.  

 Justice Brent Dickson retired in late April and will be succeeded on the court by Indianapolis attorney Geoffrey Slaughter, who will join the court in the coming weeks.

The order reinstating the COA decision can be viewed here.

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