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Despite snoozing juror, meth, theft convictions affirmed

April 10, 2019

Convictions for a man who attempted to make meth were upheld by an Indiana Court of Appeals panel Wednesday after it concluded no abuse of discretion occurred when a sleeping juror in his case was replaced, and that his argument for a new trial was waived.

Curtis Gridley was found guilty and received an aggregate 11-year sentence for charges of Level 4 felony attempting to manufacture methamphetamine and Level 6 felony theft after he made a deal to buy his underaged nephew alcohol in exchange for his assistance in buying lighter fluid, a cold pack, drain cleaner and pseudoephedrine. Gridley also stole a pipe cutter used to strip lithium out of batteries for the process of making meth.

On Gridley’s appeal of his convictions, the appellate court found that the Ripley Circuit Court did not abuse its discretion by replacing a juror who continually fell asleep and made noises during trial. It noted that the alternate juror was present and, presumably, awake up to the point of the sleeping juror’s dismissal.

The appellate court also found that the jury had not yet begun deliberating and that the trial court’s explanation of the juror’s dismissal negated any possible effect the dismissal may have had on the jury deliberations later in the process.

The panel further concluded that Gridley’s argument that a state trooper who received a confession from Gridley’s nephew about his plans to make meth testified in violation of an order in limine regarding references to Gridley’s prior bad acts failed to meet the fundamental error standard and did not warrant a new trial.

“Not only did the testimony consist of a single sentence that Gridley had been arrested in another county, the statement did not disclose the reason for the arrest, whether charges had been filed pursuant to that arrest, or whether the arrest resulted in a conviction,” Judge Melissa May wrote for the unanimous court.

“Additionally, the statement was elicited by defense counsel, not the State. Moreover, the State presented substantial independent evidence of Gridley’s guilt,” May continued. “Given the strength of that evidence, any probable persuasive effect of Trooper (Howard “Chip”) Ayers’ single-sentence response that Gridley had been arrested in another county would have been minimal.”

Lastly, the appellate court found Gridley waived his claim of prosecutorial misconduct during the state’s closing arguments, noting that he did not object to the alleged misconduct, ask for the jury to be admonished, or request a mistrial.

It thus affirmed his convictions in Curtis S. Gridley v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-1274.

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