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Friday, November 04, 2005

Ind. Decisions - More on 7th Circuit upholds Judge Barker in judicial bias ruling

The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel puts it succinctly today in an "editorial brief":

A case of bad judgment

A tip for judges: If you think you have any potential at all for a conflict of interest, go ahead and recuse yourself. Otherwise, you could let some bad people get away. Posey County Judge James Redwine stayed on the bench for a murder trail against James Patrick Harrison, even though one of the victims in the case, shortly before her death, had made some wild, unsubstantiated charges against the judge and other public officials for drug trafficking. So a federal appeals court has overturned Harrison’s conviction and ordered a new trial. This is James Patrick Harrison: In the case of the overturned verdict, he was charged with killing a woman and setting her house on fire, which also killed her two children. That meant he had been charged with killing five people in three incidents over a period of 17 years. His first conviction in 1971, for involuntary manslaughter, got him a suspended sentence. On his second conviction in 1973, for a second-degree murder charge, he served less than 15 years.

Or, as Judge Sara Evans Barker concluded her 1/2004 decision that the 7th Circuit affirmed last week:
Any grant of habeas relief is no small matter. When premised on a finding of judicial bias, it is an especially sobering matter. Given the unequivocal directives of the Supreme Court where judicial bias results in structural error permeating the entire trial process, we have no alternative but to order a new trial. Harrison’s habeas petition is GRANTED. The State of Indiana shall set a new trial date within sixty (60) days of the date of this Entry at which time the State can retry its case against Harrison before an impartial judge. If the state chooses
not to retry Harrison, it must forthwith release him from custody by which he is detained pursuant to the Judgment on the Posey Circuit Court in No. 65C01-9104-CF-0008. * * *

IT IS NOW THEREFORE ADJUDGED that James P. Harrison’s petition for a writ of
habeas corpus is granted. The State of Indiana shall release Harrison from any and all further confinement as a result of proceedings in the Posey Circuit Court, styled State of Indiana v. James P. Harrison, No. 65C01-9104-CF-0008, within sixty (60) days unless within that time a new trial is set before an impartial judge.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 4, 2005 04:20 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions