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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ind. Decisions - One today from Supreme Court

In Kenneth Dwayne Vaughn v. State of Indiana, an 11-page, 4-1 opinion, Justice David writes:

This case involves a trial court’s discretion in granting a mistrial. Defendant vacillated back and forth throughout the trial seeking to proceed pro se and at other times wanting court-appointed counsel. Ultimately, the relationship between defendant and his counsel reached its low point when later in the trial defendant testified. After being non-responsive to the first question his counsel asked, defendant began to complain to the jury about his counsel’s trial strategy. Defendant’s response to counsel’s question was also irrelevant and risked a mistrial.

Within a matter of a few moments, the judge had instructed the defendant four times to stop speaking before directing the jury to be removed from the courtroom. Before the jury left the courtroom, the judge directed the bailiff to cover the defendant’s mouth so that the defendant would stop talking. Later, after the defendant had calmed down and expressed his willingness to follow the judge’s direction, the jury was brought back into the courtroom, and defendant completed his direct and cross-examinations without incident. Only after defendant completed his testimony did defense counsel move for a mistrial. The trial court refused to grant a mistrial. Because we find the defendant did not suffer actual harm from the bailiff restraining him, we affirm the trial court’s decision. * * *

A defendant has the right to appear in front of a jury without any physical restraints. However, a trial court judge also has the responsibility of managing the proceedings so proper order exists in the courtroom. While there may have been other options the judge could have exercised to prevent the necessity of ordering the bailiff to put his hand over the defendant’s mouth, the judge’s decision was not an abuse of discretion in denying the motion for mistrial. We find no harm was done, and affirm the trial court.

Dickson, C.J., and Rucker and Massa, JJ., concur.
Sullivan, J., dissents, believing the decision of the Court of Appeals to have been correct.

Here is the Sept. 14, 2011, 2-1 COA opinion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 25, 2012 11:53 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions