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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ind. Decisions - "New trial ordered for woman convicted of Hammond homicide"

Friday's COA opinion, authored by Judge Kirsch, in Athena Y. Collins v. State of Indiana (NFP) was the subject of a story by Ruth Ann Krause in the March 24th Gary Post-Tribune. Some quotes:

The court found that the trial court judge, Lake Superior Court Judge Clarence Murray, abused his discretion by allowing deputy prosecutors Jamise Perkins and Evelyn Scott to admit evidence they said showed that Collins had been charged with and convicted of misdemeanor battery involving the use of a knife in 1979 against a co-worker in Omaha, Neb. The court wrote that the Nebraska incident did not involve Collins’ husband, had no relation to Collins’ murder case and was highly prejudicial.

The court also agreed with Collins’ appellate attorney, Marce Gonzalez Jr., that prosecutors had engaged in misconduct by making a statement during closing arguments that the court found disparaged Collins’ defense attorney, Catherine Lake.

In her closing argument, Lake recounted the testimony of Hammond police Detective Sgt. Stephen Guernsey and her cross-examination of him regarding the 1979 incident. Lake argued there was no conviction. One of the prosecutors objected, saying that Lake knew “very well that her client was convicted,” the opinion states. Lake countered that she wasn’t aware of the 1979 incident until it was presented in court and noted that the document said the prosecutor declined the case.

“In our view, there is no question that the prosecutor’s disparaging comments about defense counsel constituted prosecutorial misconduct. We remind counsel that disparaging opposing counsel seldom brings about good results,” the court wrote. The court noted there was nothing in the record to establish that Collins was convicted of the charge or that Lake was aware of a conviction. The court also found that the state’s comment “impermissibly put that information before the jury during its argument.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 25, 2012 01:41 PM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions