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Friday, May 06, 2011

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court issues one opinion today

In Joshua Konopasek v. State of Indiana, a 9-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice David writes:

At a bench trial, the defendant made a relevance objection when the State elicited testi-mony on the length of the defendant’s suspended sentence for a prior crime. We hold, under the facts of this case, that the length of the defendant’s suspended sentence was both relevant and admissible. We also reaffirm the limitation on the judicial-temperance presumption, as stated in Fletcher v. State, 264 Ind. 132, 340 N.E.2d 771 (1976). * * *

The Court of Appeals then found that the trial court should not have admitted the evidence in question but concluded the error was harmless. Id. at 766. Specifically, the Court of Appeals held that Konopasek did not overcome the judicial-temperance presumption—the presumption that in a bench trial the judge will disregard inadmissible and irrelevant evidence. Konopasek sought transfer.

We granted transfer (1) to address the admissibility of the evidence in question and (2) to reaffirm Fletcher v. State, 264 Ind. 132, 340 N.E.2d 771 (1976), as it relates to the judicial-temperance presumption. We summarily affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals on the remaining issues. Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A)(2). * * *

We do not need to apply the judicial-temperance presumption to Konopasek‘s case because the evidence in question was relevant and admissible. However, because we believe the Court of Appeals engaged the judicial-temperance presumption too broadly, we write to reaffirm the limits on the presumption as explained in Fletcher. We also write to clarify the interplay be-tween the presumption and harmless-error analysis. * * *

Conclusion. We reaffirm the Fletcher limitation on the judicial-temperance presumption. We summa-rily affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals finding sufficient evidence to support Konopa-sek‘s conviction and to disprove his self-defense claim. App. R. 58(A)(2). We conclude that the trial court properly admitted the evidence in question and affirm Konopasek‘s conviction and sentence.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 6, 2011 10:30 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions