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Justices split in protective sweep case; reinstate COA opinion

June 30, 2017

The Indiana Supreme Court was evenly divided after hearing arguments in a protective sweep case as to its proper disposition, so the court has reinstated the Court of Appeals decision reversing a man’s gun conviction in the Lafayette case.

Ricky Johnson was convicted of possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon after Lafayette police found a handgun in the back bedroom of his home. Police were called to his house after his girlfriend reported he threatened to shoot and kill her. Police conducted a protective sweep after Johnson was apprehended.

Johnson argued the gun should have been suppressed, and the Indiana Court of Appeals agreed in February. The appeals court noted the gun was found in a space that was only reachable through opening another door, so it was not immediately visible and was not a space from which an attack could immediately be launched.

The Supreme Court only has four justices right now, as it awaits newest justice Christopher Goff’s arrival July 24. An order handed down Thursday notes that after oral argument and further review, the high court is evenly split.

In this “rare circumstance,” Ind. Appellate Rule 58(C) requires reinstating the Court of Appeals decision. There will be no petition for rehearing allowed.

The justices were also evenly split as to whether to take an adoption case from St. Joseph County, In the Matter of the Adoption of K.D., B.D. v. W.D. and D.D., 71A03-1605-AD-1053, which resulted in the court denying transfer pursuant to Rule 58(C).
 

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