Opinions March 19, 2019

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The following Indiana Supreme Court opinion was posted after IL deadline Monday:
Christapher Batchelor v. State of Indiana

Criminal. Affirms Christapher Batchelor’s conviction of Level 6 felony resisting law enforcement by fleeing in a vehicle, and summarily affirms his convictions of Level 6 felony battery on a police officer and Class A misdemeanor resisting arrest. Finds the jury instruction on resisting while fleeing misstated the mens rea and potentially misled the jurors, but did not result in fundamental error because the jury charge provided adequate instructions on the correct statutory elements and standard of proof. Also finds Batchelor did not invite the instructional error. Finally, finds Batchelor failed to explain how the instructional error affected his felony battery and misdemeanor resisting convictions. 

Tuesday opinions
7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Ja’Lin Williams v. Norfolk Southern Corporation and Norfolk Southern Railway Company

Appeals from U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division
Magistrate Judge John E. Martin
Civil tort. Affirms grant of summary judgment to Norfolk Southern Corp. and Norfolk Southern Railway Co. Finds Ja’Lin Williams was more than 50 percent at fault for the injuries he sustained after running in front of a Norfolk train. Video evidence contradicted Williams’ testimony that the train was not sounding its horn or bells, did not have its light on and the warning signals were not flashing. Also cites Indiana law that a train operator has no duty to reduce a train’s speed if he sees a person crossing the tracks. 

Indiana Court of Appeals
Ziad Abd v. State of Indiana

Criminal. Affirms Ziad Abd’s convictions of murder and Level 5 felony robbery resulting in bodily injury and his aggregate 71-year sentence. Finds the Marion Superior Court admitted evidence procured pursuant to valid search warrants. Also finds the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Abd committed murder and robbery, and Abd waived his challenges to the trial court’s jury instruction and allocution procedure. Finally, finds Abd’s sentence is not inappropriate given the nature of his offenses and his character. 

Cheng Song v. Thomas Iatarola and Theresa Iatarola
Civil plenary. Reverses the denial of Cheng Song’s request for attorney’s fees. Finds the Porter Superior Court erred when it found that the jury’s verdict was based on Song’s repudiation of the purchase agreement and concluded that Song was not entitled to attorney’s fees under the agreement. Remands with instructions for the trial court to conduct a hearing to determine the amount of reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by Song, including appellate attorney’s fees, and to award those fees and court costs to Song. 

Randy L. Thornton v. Matthew Pietrzak, Stephanie Buttz, Eric Lee, and Dianna Johnson
Civil plenary. Affirms the Marion Superior Court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of probation officers Matthew Pietrzak, Stephanie Buttz, Eric Lee, and Dianna Johnson. Finds the officers are entitled to quasi-judicial immunity, and the trial court did not err when it granted summary judgment in their favor against Randy Thornton. 

Hendricks County, Indiana, et al. v. Gwyn L. Green
Civil plenary. Affirms the Boone Superior Court’s judgment on the pleadings that Gwyn L. Green is entitled to a principal payment of $11,075.26 for cashing in accumulated paid time off hours after she resigned from her position as a Hancock County probation officer. Holds that as court employees, probation officers are entitled to a cash payout of unused PTO in accordance with the Court’s employee manual and the County is not entitled to sovereign immunity under the Wage Payment Statute. 

Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana, Inc., St. Mary Medical Center, Inc., and Rebecca Iwanus v. Elizabeth A. Miranda
Civil plenary. Reverses and remands the Lake Superior Court’s denial of a motion for summary judgment brought by Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana, Inc, St. Mary Medical Center, Inc., and Rebecca Iwanus against Elizabeth Miranda. Finds no genuine material facts exist and that the defendants are entitled to judgment. Finds the trial court erred in denying their motion for summary judgment. 

James Peter Kobold v. Cindy Ann Kobold and Wells Fargo Bank, National Association and Rieth-Riley Construction Co., Inc.
Domestic Relation. Affirms in part, reverses in part. Finds the St. Joseph Circuit Court’s motion to correct error was not erroneous and that trial court rendered a final adjudication of Rieth-Riley Construction Co.’s right to possess the farm. Also finds the trial court erred in ruling that Cindy Ann Kobold was entitled only to that amount of sales proceeds that would cover the amount James owed her at the time the sale of the farm to Rieth-Riley had closed. Remands for the trial court to determine the amount of trial and appellate attorney fees that James Peter Kobold owes Cindy Kobold.

Joaquin Alcauter v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
Criminal. Affirms Joaquin Alcauter’s conviction for one count of child molesting as a Level 4 felony. Finds the Marion Superior Court did not abuse its discretion when it admitted hearsay statements as excited utterances. 

Gary Cooper v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
Criminal. Affirms Gary Cooper’s convictions for maintaining a common nuisance and possession of paraphernalia, both as Level 6 felonies. Finds the Howard Superior Court did not abuse its discretion in the admission of evidence. 

Porter County Sheriff's Department v. Brooks C.C. Willmon (mem. dec.)
Civil tort. Affirms and reverses in part the partial grant of summary judgment to the Porter County Sheriff’s Department on former inmate Brooks C.C. Willmon’s negligence claim. Finds the sheriff was not entitled to summary judgment on a malpractice-based theory of negligence, or otherwise. Also finds the Porter Superior Court improvidently granted partial summary judgment. Remands for further proceedings. 

Todd George v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
Criminal. Affirms Todd George’s convictions of Level 2 felony burglary, Level 3 felony kidnapping, Level 5 felony domestic battery and Level 5 felony intimidation. Finds the evidence is sufficient to sustain George’s elevated convictions. Also finds the Tippecanoe Superior Court did not abuse its discretion in the admission of testimony or in limiting George’s cross-examination of L.G., his estranged wife. Finally, finds George’s convictions did not violate the prohibitions against double jeopardy. 

Michael Lewis v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
Criminal. Affirms Michael Lewis’ aggregate 55-year sentence for his convictions of two counts of child molesting. Finds Lewis has not sustained his burden of establishing that his aggregate sentence is inappropriate in light of the nature of the offenses and his character. 

Kevin Harris v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
Criminal. Affirms the denial of Kevin Harris’ motion to suppress evidence of methamphetamine found during a warrantless search of a vehicle. Finds the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to address the issues before it. Also finds the search of Harris’ vehicle did not violate the search and seizure provisions of either the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution or Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution, so the Marion Superior Court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to suppress. Remands for further proceedings. 

Nathan Berkman v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
Post-conviction. Affirms the denial of Nathan Berkman’s petition for post-conviction relief. Finds trial counsel provided effective assistance to Berkman. 

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