Supreme Court remands attempted murder case for reconsideration

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A Bloomfield man convicted of felony attempted murder will not get a new trial after the Indiana Supreme Court decided his case instead warranted reconsideration by trial court.

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that although the trial court applied the wrong standard of mens rea, the appropriate remedy to correct that error is reconsideration by the court.

On Aug. 10, 2014, Jeremy Kohn and his girlfriend, Kylee Bateman, were sitting on Kohn’s front porch laughing at a story when Michael Miller, believing the couple was laughing at him, calmly approached them, cut Kohn’s throat with a knife, then walked away. Kohn recovered with 40 stitches, and Miller was arrested in connection with the attack three days later.

During interviews with police, Miller admitted that he had cut Kohn’s throat. When police asked if the cut was meant to kill Kohn, Miller said he did not care. The state charged Miller with Level 1 felony attempted murder and Level 5 felony battery, with the murder charge reading, in part, that Miller “did knowingly or intentionally attempt to commit the crime of Murder, to-wit: to knowingly kill Jeremy Kohn.”

After a bench trial, the Greene Circuit Court found Miller guilty but mentally ill on both counts, finding “that Defendant had the requisite intent to kill… .” Miller appealed, arguing the state did not present sufficient evidence to prove his specific intent to kill Kohn, as is required to prove attempted murder.

In a March opinion, the Indiana Court of Appeals determined that the references to a “knowing” mens rea could indicate the application of the wrong standard of proof and, thus, remanded the case for a new trial. But in a per curiam opinion granting the state’s petition to transfer, the justices held the appropriate remedy for the application of the wrong standard of proof was a remand for reconsideration, not a new trial.

The high court sent the case,  Michael A. Miller v. State of Indiana, 28S04-1707-CR-468, back to the Greene Circuit Court to apply the appropriate legal standard – a specific intent to kill – and affirmed the Court of Appeals’ decision in all other respects.

In a separate opinion, Justice Geoffrey Slaughter wrote he agreed that the wrong legal standard was applied. However, Slaughter dissented on the court’s chosen remedy, writing he would remand the case for a new trial because he shares the Court of Appeals’ concern that the judge, on remand, “’may have a difficult, if not impossible, task of distancing himself from the evidence already considered and in considering the case entirely anew.’”

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