Opinions March 7, 2022

The following Indiana Supreme Court opinion was posted after IL deadline Friday:
In the Matter of Michael C. Steele
Attorney discipline. Publicly remands Indianapolis attorney Michael C. Steele. Finds Steele, representing himself pro se, violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 4.2 by communicating directly with an opposing party about the subject of the representation, despite opposing counsel’s explicit instructions not to do so. Justice Geoffrey Slaughter dissents with separate opinion.

Monday opinions
Court of Appeals of Indiana
Perise L. Fowler v. State of Indiana
Criminal. Affirms Perise L. Fowler’s conviction for murder. Finds no error in the Marion Superior Court’s denial of Fowler’s oral motion to reconsider his guilty verdict and to enter judgment of conviction on the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter that was not argued at trial.

Weston Havey v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
Criminal. Affirms Weston Havey’s 22-year sentence for his conviction of Level 2 felony burglary with a deadly weapon. Finds the sentence is not inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and the character of the offender.

Brett Beatty v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
Criminal. Affirms Brett Beatty’s convictions for Level 5 felony reckless homicide and Class B misdemeanor criminal recklessness, and his sentence to an aggregate of five years, with two years executed in the Indiana Department of Correction, two years in Lake County Community Corrections and one year on pribation. Finds the Lake Circuit Court did not abuse its discretion when it considered as aggravating factors the minor ages of E.C. and P.C. and Beatty’s responsibility for the children at the time of the offenses. Also finds the sentence is not inappropriate given the nature of the offenses and his character.

Duane N. Longacre v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
Criminal. Affirms Duane N. Longacre’s convictions and aggregate 97-year sentence for felony murder, Level 4 felony arson, Class A Misdemeanor resisting law enforcement and his adjudication as a habitual offender. Finds the Marshall Superior Court did not abuse its discretion when it admitted as evidence autopsy photos; did not instruct the jury on voluntary manslaughter as a lesser-included offense to murder; or when it sentenced Longacre.

Thomas G. Spiece v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
Criminal. Affirms Thomas G. Spiece’s conviction for Class A misdemeanor criminal trespass. Finds sufficient evidence to support the conviction.

In the Matter of B.S., A.R.S., and N.J.S. (Minor Children), Children in Need of Services, and G.S. (Father) v. Indiana Department of Child Services (mem. dec.)
Juvenile CHINS. Affirms the Allen Superior Court’s grant of custody of father G.S.’s children B.S., A.R.S. and N.J.S. to their relatives. Finds the trial court did not err in concluding the Department of Child Services demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that the children’s best interests are substantially and significantly served by granting custody to maternal grandfather and paternal cousin.

Michael P. Swygart v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
Post-conviction. Affirms Michael Swygart’s convictions for Level 4 felony child molesting and two counts of Level 4 felony sexual misconduct.  Finds Swygart’s counsel made a reasonable strategic decision that an emphasis on the intent element in the instructions was to his advantage and rereading all the instructions would distract the jury from that focus to Swygart’s disadvantage. Also finds that even if counsel’s performance was deficient, there was not a reasonable probability that the jury would have reached a different conclusion as to Swygart’s intent regarding the child molesting charge. Finally, finds no error in the post-conviction court’s conclusion that counsel’s performance was neither deficient nor prejudicial to Swygart.

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