COA: Accused murderer entitled to bifurcated trial

A man accused of murdering a Mitchell woman is entitled to a bifurcated trial — a first phase on the murder-related charges before a second phase in which the state may introduce evidence of a prior conviction to satisfy a charge of possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.

Lincoln Pickett is charged with the murder of Kamie Ratcliff, also known as Kamie Brashear, as well as Level 6 felony counts of obstruction of justice and abuse of a corpse, two counts of Class A misdemeanor false informing, and one count of Class A misdemeanor failure to report a dead body. He is also charged with Level 4 felony unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.

Pickett filed an interlocutory appeal after the Lawrence Superior Court denied his motion earlier this year to bifurcate the trial when the state attempted to introduce evidence of a prior felony escape conviction on which to support the SVF firearm charge.

The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, ordering bifurcated proceedings in Lincoln R. Pickett v. State of Indiana, 47A01-1612-CR-2900.

“In the present case, Pickett’s prior conviction for escape has no relevance to the charges he presently faces; i.e., it did not tend to establish intent, motive, knowledge, plan, identity, or credibility,” Senior Judge John Sharpnack wrote for the panel. A proposed jury instruction that cited the SVF statute by number without using the term “serious violent felon” “would do nothing to ameliorate the prejudicial irrelevance (of the prior escape conviction) in this case. Therefore, we conclude that the trial court erred by denying Pickett’s motion to bifurcate the proceedings.”

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