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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today, a reversal

In Lisa J. Kane v. State, an 8-page, 4-0 opinion, Justice Massa writes:

Lisa Kane appeals her conviction for receiving stolen property, arguing that the trial court improperly instructed the jury on the mental state required to convict her. We agree, reverse her conviction, and remand her case for retrial. * * *

[Kane Has Not Waived Her Claim of Instructional Error] As a threshold matter, the State contends that Kane’s claim of instructional error is waived because she did not raise the particular grounds for her objection at trial or on appeal. We disagree. * * *

[Jury Instruction No. 12 Was an Incorrect Statement of the Law] In prior cases, we have weighed jury instructions that were unclear as to the relevant mental state and found them wanting. See Small, 531 N.E.2d at 499. Final Instruction No. 12 does not include a mental state at all; rather, it seems to impose strict liability on Kane for the unlawful acts of Sam, whether she knew about them or not. That is not the law in Indiana, and so we hold that the trial court erred by giving the jury Final Instruction No. 12. * * *

[The Error Was Not Harmless] We agree with Judge Barnes that this “evidence of Kane’s knowledge that she was helping Sam ‘fence’ stolen property is far from overwhelming.” * * * Thus, we cannot say the verdict would have been the same if the jury had been properly instructed as to the knowledge requirement of the offense, and we find the error was not harmless.

Conclusion. Accordingly, we reverse Kane’s conviction and remand this case for retrial.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 30, 2012 10:42 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions