COA affirms domestic violence convictions after trial court declines mistrial

Finding no prosecutorial misconduct or circumstances warranting a mistrial, the Court of Appeals of Indiana has affirmed a man’s two felony convictions following a domestic violence incident.

Abram Glover was charged in June 2020 with Level 6 felony strangulation and Level 6 felony domestic battery against his girlfriend, E.A. The following May, during jury selection, the Knox Superior Court overruled multiple objections from Glover.

Specifically, Glover argued that the state was attempting to tell the jurors what to look for and that it was using a “line of questioning” to turn one prospective juror into “an educational juror.” He also objected to the state’s opening statement, which told the jurors that E.A. was forced to hire and pay for Glover’s attorney.

While on the stand, E.A. was asked if she’d ever called the police on Glover, to which she said he had previously been in prison. That prompted the parties to go off the record, and Glover moved for a mistrial.

The trial court denied the mistrial but struck E.A.’s statement and admonished the jury not to consider it. Glover was ultimately found guilty as charged, and he appealed in Abram Lamar Glover v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-1422.

But the appellate court affirmed, finding first that the state did not use the jury selection process to improperly condition the prospective jurors to be receptive to its case.

“First, Indiana Jury Rule 14(b) expressly permitted the State to give a mini opening that was a ‘brief statement[] of the facts and issues … to be determined by the jury,’ which is how the State used its opening,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the COA. “Second, unlike (Robinson v. State, 260 Ind. 517, 519, 297 N.E.2d 409 (1973)) and (Perryman v. State, 830 N.E.2d 1005 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005)) nothing in the State’s questioning of the prospective jurors suggested the existence of prejudicial evidence that was not introduced at trial. Rather, the State’s questions inquired with the prospective jurors about their own experiences with and exposure to domestic violence.”

The COA also found the state’s questions explored the jurors’ understanding of domestic violence, which was relevant to uncovering their attitudes toward the charges and any preconceived ideas they might have had about the charges and any defenses.

Next, on Glover’s assertion that the trial court erred when it denied his request for a mistrial, the appellate panel found no abuse of discretion. It noted his argument that the jury may not have followed the court’s instructions from its admonishment was “speculative.”

Finally, the appellate court concluded Glover had not met his burden of showing prosecutorial misconduct, including as to the state’s comment in its opening statement.

“Further, the State’s comment here was far less egregious than those in Ryan, Marcum, or Brock, none of which supported a claim of misconduct,” Mathias wrote, citing Ryan v. State, 9 N.E.3d 663 (Ind. 2014), Marcum v. State, 725 N.E.2d 852 (Ind. 2000), and Brock v. State, 432 N.E.2d 302 (Ind. 1981).

“Therefore, we conclude that the State’s comment did not place Glover in ‘a position of grave peril to which he would not have been subjected otherwise,’ and there is no fundamental error on this issue,” the COA concluded.

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