Marion County inmate discharged after reversal of misdemeanor conviction for jailhouse incident

A Marion County inmate has been discharged after an appellate panel concluded he was wrongly convicted of Class A misdemeanor battery against the facility’s mail clerk.

While incarcerated in a Marion County jail on an unrelated charge, Paul Carmouche became embroiled in a dispute with Medinah Brown, the jail’s mail clerk. Per the private mail company’s policy, Brown returned legal mail intended for Carmouche on several occasions because it failed to include his gallery number.

Carmouche objected to Brown’s administration of the policy and filed a formal grievance against her. In September 2020, Brown visited Carmouche’s dormitory to tell him that she had once again been required to return his mail.

Carmouche allegedly became “irate” and kicked the door, which Brown said hit her right knee and later caused some pain and swelling.

Carmouche was charged with Class A misdemeanor battery resulting in bodily injury. Although there was frequent mention of his upcoming “jury trial,” Carmouche only received a bench trial.

He was ultimately found guilty after the Marion Superior Court reviewed surveillance footage of the jailhouse incident.

In a Tuesday reversal, the Court of Appeals agreed with Carmouche that he was never advised of his rights, invalidating his jury trial waiver.

“The record contains no evidence that Carmouche was ever informed that his jury trial right was not automatic, let alone how to assert it. And the recurring references to a jury trial were likely misleading in this regard,” Judge Leanna Weissmann wrote. “Accordingly, we reverse Carmouche’s conviction.”

As for the sufficiency of the evidence, the COA agreed with Carmouche that the surveillance video footage “clearly shows that the door did not touch Brown’s knee, indisputably contradicting the State’s case.”

“The video footage reveals that the door never contacted Brown’s right knee, though it did hit her left foot,” Weissmann wrote. “… Though the door hits her foot, there is always daylight between the door and Brown’s knee.”

The COA also found that the video indisputably contradicted the trial court’s findings in that, while the video was grainy, it was also well-lit, the angle afforded a good view of the altercation and the entire incident was recorded.

“The State did not offer evidence to explain how the contact with Brown’s left foot would cause her right knee to ache,” Weissmann wrote. “The evidence is therefore insufficient to show that Carmouche’s kick to the door caused Brown bodily injury.”

Finding that Carmouche cannot be retried for Class A misdemeanor battery, the COA ordered that Carmouche be discharged.

The case is Paul Carmouche v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-1666.

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