Justices grant transfer in computer trespassing case, split in denial of several others

Indiana Supreme Court justices have declined transfer to more than a dozen cases, splitting in their decisions for several of them. However, the high court agreed to hear one case involving computer trespassing.

Justices granted transfer in Kelsie L. West v. State of Indiana, 22S-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.

Among other things, the Court of Appeals of Indiana held that the 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.

Oral arguments in West have been scheduled for 9 a.m. on March 9 in the high court’s courtroom in the Indiana Statehouse.

In a separate order, the high court vacated its previous grant of transfer to the case of Laura M. Johnson v. City of Michigan City21S-CT-423.

Cyclist Laura Johnson was injured in May 2017 after striking a pothole on Duneland Beach Drive in Michigan City. She sued the city for negligence in 2018.

The LaPorte Superior Court granted summary judgment to the city on the grounds that the municipality was “immune from liability” under the Indiana Tort Claims Act. A panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed, but Judge Elaine Brown dissented.

The high court initially granted transfer to the Johnson case and heard oral arguments, but changed course in a Jan. 27 order. Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush dissented from that decision.

“After further review, including consideration of the points presented by counsel at oral argument and discussion among the Justices in conference after the oral argument, the Court has determined that it should not assume jurisdiction over this appeal and that the Court of Appeals opinion reported as Johnson v. City of Michigan City, 172 N.E.3d 355 (Ind. Ct. App. 2021), should be reinstated as Court of Appeals precedent,” according to the Jan. 27 order.

Justices also declined to grant transfer to Jason M. Middleton v. State of Indiana, 21A-PC-01034.

There, the COA affirmed the Rush Superior Court’s denial of Jason Middleton’s request for post-conviction relief from his conviction of Class B felony dealing in methamphetamine. It found that although the trial court failed to give Middleton a proper Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238 (1969), advisement during his change of plea hearing, the state carried its burden of affirmatively showing Middleton understood his rights en masse.

The high court split in denying transfer, with Justice Steven David dissenting in a Jan. 26 order.

In his dissent, David, joined by Rush, stated he would grant transfer “to disavow the advisement-of-rights process the trial court employed here.”

“Here, Middleton was never instructed to listen to the advisement of rights read to another defendant, nor was he told he would not be given the same advisement before pleading guilty,” David wrote. “Instead, the court merely asked whether Middleton heard the rights read to a prior defendant, whether he wanted any of them repeated or explained further, and whether he understood that he was waiving those rights by pleading guilty.

“This perfunctory advisement falls far short of the process described in (James v. State, 454 N.E.2d 1225, 1228 (Ind. Ct. App. 1983)) for ensuring an adequate advisement of a defendant’s rights,” he concluded. “Our trial courts can and must do better. Doing the right thing is not cumbersome but necessary. And failing to do the right thing puts the Defendant in a very precarious situation and reflects poorly on our system.”

Ultimately, the high court declined to grant transfer in 16 other cases, including Rebecca J. Denman, M.D. v. St. Vincent Medical Group, Inc., St. Vincent Carmel Hospital, Inc., et al., 20A-PL-1236.

There, Dr. Rebecca J. Denman was awarded millions in damages after suing St. Vincent Carmel Hospital when it placed her on leave following a nurse’s report of alcohol on Denman’s breath. The Court of Appeals partially affirmed and remanded for the trial court to recalculate pre- and post-judgment interest.

Justices Mark Massa and Geoffrey Slaughter voted to grant transfer to that case.

The court also split in the denial of transfer to James David Boyd v. State of Indiana, 21A-PC-624, and Adam Peyton Taylor v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-881. But it unanimously denied transfer under Indiana Appellate Rule 56(A) to Anthony Lee Rogers v. United States, 22A-PL-98.

The full list of transfer decisions for the week ending Jan. 28 is available online. 

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets on
{{ count_down }}