IN Supreme Court, COA taking oral arguments on the road

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The Indiana Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals of Indiana will travel across the state next week to hear oral arguments in cases involving robbery, a police officer’s perjury and the Indiana Repertory Theater’s continued fight for COVID-19 insurance coverage.  

Indiana Supreme Court justices will begin the week at the Mitchell Opera House in southern Indiana. The justices will travel to the historic venue in Lawrence County for oral arguments in Christopher Jerome Harris v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-1315.

Harris was found guilty of robbery and battery following a bench trial. Although he requested a jury trial on his habitual offender charge, the Marion Superior Court didn’t allow him to present evidence to the jury about the circumstances surrounding his convictions.

The Court of Appeals affirmed Harris’ conviction and sentence, prompting him to petition to the high court for review.

Arguments will begin at 10 a.m. Oct. 26 at the opera house, 217 N. 7th St. in Mitchell. Nearly 200 students from Mitchell, Orleans and Shoals high schools are expected to attend.

Members of the Court of Appeals will also go on the road through its traveling oral arguments program, Appeals on Wheels. Judges Margret Robb, Nancy Vaidik, and Leanna Weissmann will hear arguments in Robert Lawson v. State of Indiana, 22A-CR-448 at South Ripley High School.

In that case, Robert Lawson, an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer, responded to a disturbance at Shortridge High School. While dealing with an unruly student, Lawson struck the student because he believed based on the student’s behavior that the student was about to hit him.

Lawson’s subsequent report claimed that a resource officer also involved in the incident stated that she saw the student swing at Lawson just before he struck the student. However, the resource officer later disagreed with his recounting of what she saw. Rather, she said the student looked as if he was about to swing at Lawson.

As a result of the resource officer’s alleged statement included in the report, Lawson was charged with obstruction of justice, perjury, battery, false informing, and official misconduct.  A jury found him not guilty of battery, but concluded he was guilty of official misconduct and perjury. It was unable to reach a verdict on obstruction of justice

Lawson appeals his convictions, arguing the trial court erred in denying his Trial Rule 50 motions for judgment on the evidence, among other things. Primarily, he argues that because the question of whether the inclusion of the resource officer’s statement in a probable cause affidavit was criminal, was a legal determination that should have been made by the court not a jury.

Arguments in Lawson will begin at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 27 at the high school, 1589 S. Benham Rd. in Versailles.

The Court of Appeals will also consider the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s suit seeking insurance coverage to cover losses incurred from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the case of Indiana Repertory Theater v. The Cincinnati Casualty Company, 21A-CP-2848, the IRT filed a claim with its insurer seeking reimbursement for the financial losses it suffered in 2020 due to pandemic-related shutdowns.

For its part, the theater alleged that the COVID-19 virus altered its physical space by creating a health hazard inside the building. Cincinnati Casualty disagreed, however, denying coverage on the basis that the IRT did not sustain any “direct physical loss or direct physical damage.”

Both the Marion Superior Court and the Court of Appeals ruled for the insurance company. The Indiana Supreme Court unanimously declined to hear the IRT’s case in July, letting the COA’s ruling stand.

Arguments in the IRT case will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 28 at Purdue University in the Krannert Center, Room 108 at 403 W. State Street in West LaFayette.

Judges Nancy Vaidik, Margret Robb and Robert Altice will preside over the case.

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