Judges reverse resisting law enforcement conviction

The Indiana Court of Appeals has overturned a man’s resisting law enforcement conviction after finding that the police officer’s actions justified the man’s resistance.

In Jefferson Jean-Baptiste v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1608-CR-1798, Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy James Russo was attempting to serve civil arrest warrant on Jefferson Jean-Baptiste in April 2016, but Jean-Baptiste refused to comply. After Russo tried to grab his arm, Jean-Baptiste pulled away, so Russo, acting on the assumption that Jean-Baptiste was resisting arrest, entered the home and placed him in custody.

Jean-Baptiste was convicted of resisting law enforcement and argued on appeal that the state had not presented sufficient evidence to support his conviction. The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed, with Judge Edward Najam pointing to the case of Casselman v. State, 472 N.E.2d 1310 (Ind. Ct. App. 1985) and Indiana Code 35-41-3-2 as the panel’s guidance.

Specifically, Najam wrote that Russo was outside the residence while Jean-Baptiste was inside when Russo, “without permission or legal justification,” reached across the threshold and grabbed Jean-Baptiste. Thus, under Indiana Code, Jean-Baptiste was justified in his resistance of law enforcement.

Further, the appellate court reversed Jean-Baptiste’s conviction because it found, sua sponte, that the trial court committed fundamental error by denying his right to a jury trial without first eliciting a personal waiver from him on the record.

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