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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ind. Decisions - More on: 7th Circuit rules in Indiana case where defendant wore stun-belt throughout trial

The 7th Circuit's decision in Wrinkles v. Buss, summarized here in the ILB yesterday, August 12th, is the subject of a story this afternoon in the Louisville Courier Journal by Tom Coyle of the AP. Some quotes:

A federal appeals has rejected the appeal of an Indiana man sentenced to death for the 1994 murder of his estranged wife and two of her relatives.

Matthew Eric Wrinkles, 48, of Evansville was convicted in 1995 in the murders of Debra Jean Wrinkles, 31; her brother, Mark “Tony” Fulkerson, 28; and Fulkerson’s 26-year-old wife, Natalie “Chris” Fulkerson. Wrinkles’ attorneys argued that he should have received a new trial because jurors were biased since they could see he was wearing a stun belt during his trial.

In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on Tuesday affirmed a ruling by District Judge John Daniel Tinder that Wrinkles could not demonstrate prejudice because the jury was not aware he was wearing the stun belt. * * *

At the time of the trial, Vanderburgh Circuit Judge Richard Young informed Wrinkles he had to wear a shackles or a stun belt because it was the court’s policy. A stun belt is a battery-powered device devices designed to deliver electric shocks to wearers if they become violent.

In 2001, the Indiana Supreme Court banned the use stun belts to restrain defendants in courtrooms, ruling the devices could interfere with a person’s defense. That ruling was the result of the appeal by Wrinkles.

But the high court rejected Wrinkles’ claim that his attorneys were ineffective because they did not object to him being forced to wear the belt. Wrinkles’ trial attorneys chose the device over shackles because they believed it would not be visible to jurors.

Although Wrinkles presented affidavits from three jurors who claimed to have seen the stun belt during the trial, Tinder ruled that Wrinkles did not prove that the belt was visible or that the jury knew about it. The Appeals Court upheld that finding.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 13, 2008 05:08 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions