Justices disagree on denying transfer in domestic violence, computer trespassing cases

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Indiana Supreme Court justices last week could not come to an unanimous decision in declining to further consider two cases that sought transfer of jurisdiction before the high court.

Justices initially granted a petition seeking transfer of jurisdiction in Kelsie L. West v. State of Indiana22S-CR-43. In that case, Kelsie West of Bloomington allegedly committed computer trespassing after she took her ex-boyfriend’s Snapchat password from his computer without permission and posted nude images sent to him by another woman.

The Court of Appeals of Indiana held, among other things, that the Indiana Legislature intended a single computer to fall within the definition of “computer system.” It ultimately concluded there was no abuse of discretion in denying West’s motion to dismiss the computer trespass charge.

The Supreme Court concurred in determining that it should not assume jurisdiction over West’s case, vacating its original order granting transfer. However, Chief Justice Loretta Rush dissented from the denial.

Justices also split on whether to grant transfer in the case of Abram Lamar Glover v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-1422, a case involving domestic violence convictions that were handed to Abram Glover after he strangled his girlfriend, E.A.

Glover was charged in June 2020 with Level 6 felony strangulation and Level 6 felony domestic battery. During jury selection, the Knox Superior Court overruled multiple objections from Glover that the state was using the process to improperly condition the prospective jurors to be receptive to its case. 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.

The Court of Appeals of Indiana affirmed,  finding no improper conditioning of jurors and determining the state’s questions were relevant and that there was no error in the denial of Glover’s request for a mistrial. It also concluded Glover had not met his burden of showing prosecutorial misconduct.

Justice Steven David dissented, opining in a separate opinion that he would have granted transfer in the case to grant clarity because he believed the state conducted an improper “mini trial” during voir dire in violation of Jury Rule 14(b).

“The plain language of the rule indicates that the ability to ‘present brief statements of the facts and issues’ falls within the discretion of the trial court. However, this Court has never addressed the proper procedure or scope for allowing such statements,” David wrote .

“I would find that such discretionary determination would best be addressed in a pretrial conference so the parties can determine the breadth and scope of the mini opening in advance, and not do so for the first time when the prospective jurors are seated and the ‘traditional voir dire’ is about to begin,” he continued. “And if the trial court, in its discretion, determines that it is appropriate to allow a mini opening, both sides should be afforded the opportunity, and the trial judge should endeavor to manage the parameters to reduce the potential for issues and abuses resulting from these mini openings before voir dire even begins.”

David also suggested that the parties and trial court determine how to clearly delineate between the end of the mini opening and the start of the traditional voir dire “to clear up potential confusion from the potential jurors”.

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