« Law - More on "The battle over direct shipping of wine from producer to consumer has returned to Congress." | Main | Law - More on "Facebook Privacy: A Bewildering Tangle of Options" »

Friday, May 14, 2010

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court posts opinion this afternoon

In Chawknee Caruthers v. State of Indiana, a 10-page, 5-0, just-posted (3:10 PM) opinion, Chief Justice Shepard writes:

Chawknee Caruthers shot and killed Karim Turner after mistaking him for someone else, and a jury found Caruthers guilty of murder. During his trial, the court took security measures to address juror concerns that remain unspecified. He now appeals based on (1) the trial court’s failure to sua sponte interrogate the jury about the effect of these concerns on their impartiality, (2) his trial counsel’s ineffectiveness, and (3) sufficiency of the evidence. We affirm. * * *

Standard of Review. The failure to raise a claim of error generally waives that issue for appeal. Clark v. State, 915 N.E.2d 126, 131 (Ind. 2009). We nevertheless sometimes entertain such claims under fundamental error, meaning an error that makes a fair trial impossible or that constitutes a clearly blatant violation of basic and elementary principles of due process presenting an undeniable and substantial potential for harm. Id. (citing Benson v. State, 762 N.E.2d 748 (Ind. 2002)).

I. Failure to Interrogate the Jury Was Not Fundamental Error.. * * *

We acknowledge that best practice would have been for the trial court to enter its observations into the record at the time action was taken, giving further description of the nature of the jurors’ concerns and its reasoning for taking the security measures it did and not anything more. That said, even reading the record in a light most favorable to Caruthers’ claim does not lead us to conclude that the trial court’s failure to interrogate the jury constituted a ―blatant violation of basic and elementary due process‖ that undeniably made a fair trial impossible. Clark, 915 N.E.2d at 131.

II. The Evidence Was Sufficient to Prove Murder. * * *

At least two witnesses stated Caruthers admitted to the shooting. (Tr. at 147, 586.) Considering all the evidence most favorable to the verdict and drawing all reasonable inferences therefrom, we conclude that the jury could have reasonably found Caruthers guilty.

III. The Claim of Ineffective Assistance Is Unavailable Here.

Caruthers argues that his trial counsel was ineffective on several grounds. (Appellant’s Br. at 5–10.) His appellate counsel making these arguments also served as trial counsel. Arguing one’s own ineffectiveness is not permissible under the Rules of Professional Conduct.Ind. Professional Conduct Rule 1.7(a); Etienne v. State, 716 N.E.2d 457, 463 (Ind. 1999).

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 14, 2010 03:18 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions