Justices to hear first-impression issue in teen’s attempted murder case

Indiana Supreme Court justices on Thursday will hear argument in a case of first impression involving a 15-year-old’s attempted murder conviction that previously caused an appellate panel to split over whether the teen’s mother’s presence was essential to his defense.

The high court this week will hear Byron D. Harris, Jr. v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-1863. In the case, then-15-year-old Byron Harris Jr. was convicted in Elkhart Circuit Court of Level 1 felony attempted murder and Level 3 felony aggravated battery.

A majority of an Indiana Court of Appeals panel previously concluded that Harris’ mother was essential to presenting her son’s claim or defense under Indiana Evidence Rule 615(c). It reversed Harris’ attempted murder conviction and 37-year sentence in the Department of Correction.

A dissenting judge, however, disagreed with “the majority’s blanket conclusions that every waived juvenile has an absolute due process right to have a parent who is also a witness present throughout trial and that the presence of such a parent is per se ‘essential’ for purposes of Rule 615(c).”

Justices agreed to hear the case on petition to transfer, granting the request on Sept. 3. Arguments will be streamed online at 9 a.m. ET on Thursday.

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