« Courts - SCOTUS decisions today ... [Updated] | Main | Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 5 today (and 4 NFP) »

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ind. Decisions - Two today from Supreme Court

In Erving Sanders v. State of Indiana, a 6-page, 5-0 opinion, Chief Justice Dickson writes:

The defendant, facing charges of Possession of Cocaine, a class D felony, has brought this interlocutory appeal from the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained following a traffic stop. Concluding that the motion should have been granted, the Court of Appeals reversed. Sanders v. State, 981 N.E.2d 616, 623 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013). We granted transfer and now affirm the trial court. * * *

We hold that the officer had reasonable suspicion that the tint on the windows of the defendant's vehicle was in violation of the Window Tint Statute such that the initial stop was justified. At the initial stop, the officer smelled marijuana, which provided probable cause to search the defendant's person. The search of the defendant's person revealed a bag of cocaine, the evidence at issue in this case. Because the evidence was obtained as a result of a fully justified and legal search, the trial court was correct in denying the defendant's motion to suppress. We hereby affirm the ruling of the trial court.

In Loren Hamilton Fry v. State of Indiana, a 39-page, 3-2 "fractured" set of 4 separate opinions, Justice David writes for the majority:
The Indiana Constitution provides a qualified right to bail, exempting murder and treason from that right when “the proof is evident, or the presumption strong.” For nearly 150 years, every time we have addressed the issue in the context of a murder charge, this Court has held that the defendant must carry the burden of demonstrating that the proof is not evident and the presumption not strong, and that he is thus entitled to bail. And the Indiana General Assembly has codified this constitutional provision and our jurisprudence into the Indiana Code.

A criminal defendant now charged with murder challenges the constitutionality of the statutory provision assigning him the burden of showing he is entitled to bail. After due consideration, today we hold that the burden must be placed upon the State to prove the defendant should be denied bail. Nevertheless, given the facts and circumstances of this particular case we affirm the trial court’s decision denying the defendant bail. * * *

Conclusion [at p. 31 of 39] We hold today that when a defendant charged with murder or treason seeks bail, the burden is on the State, if it seeks to deny bail, to show—by a preponderance of the evidence—that the proof is evident or the presumption strong. This change notwithstanding, we also affirm the trial court’s denial of Fry’s bail in this case.

Dickson, C.J., concurs with separate opinion which Rush, J., joins.
Rush, J., concurs.
Massa, J., concurs in result and dissents with separate opinion.
Rucker, J., dissents with separate opinion in which Massa, J., concurs.

Dickson, CJ [at pp. 31-32 of 39] I applaud the carefully researched and thoughtful separate opinions of Justices Rucker and Massa. But I find determinative the actual language of the Right to Bail Clause of the Indiana Constitution.

Offenses, other than murder or treason, shall be bailable by sufficient sureties. Murder or treason shall not be bailable, when the proof is evident or the presumption strong. Ind. Const. art. 1, § 17.

Put another way, this provision declares a general rule that criminal offenses are bailable, with one exception, for murder and treason, that arises upon satisfaction of a prerequisite—where "the proof is evident or the presumption strong." When such prerequisite is satisfied, then the exception to the right to bail applies, and murder or treason "shall not be bailable." * * *

The Court today announces a measured approach that fully implements the requirements of the Right to Bail Clause of our Constitution while at the same time honoring and adhering to the presumption of innocence. To obtain pre-trial detention without bail of a person charged with murder or treason, the State need only show that the accused more likely than not commit-ted the charged crime. Only if the State cannot make this minimal showing may the trial court establish monetary bail or other conditions of pre-trial release. I am convinced that the standard established today represents a proper understanding and application of the Indiana Constitution's Right to Bail Clause, and I thus concur.

Massa, J [at pp. 34-37 of 39] I agree with the majority insofar as it affirms the trial court’s decision to deny Fry bail, but I dissent from the majority holding that Ind. Code § 35-33-8-2(b) is unconstitutional. While I agree with Justice Rucker and join in his dissent, I write separately to reaffirm and support this Court’s past precedent and its long-standing adherence to an originalist interpretation of our state constitution. * * *

The language of the Constitution, the convention debates, and the judicial and legislative history all demonstrate the purpose behind the murder bail provision. The framers specifically excluded those charged with murder or treason from the possibility of bail in most cases because of the seriousness of those crimes. They feared that if a defendant were admitted to bail, he may flee rather than face a judge or jury. Thus, only those defendants who could show they were likely innocent—who could show the proof of guilt was not evident nor the presumption strong—should be let to bail. While my colleagues may disagree with that policy, it is what the framers intended and what the Constitution says, and we are bound to uphold it until such time as the citizens of Indiana see fit to amend it.

Rucker, J [at pp. 38-39 of 39] In one fell swoop, today the Court overrules nearly 150 years of precedent and declares a 30-year-old statute unconstitutional. Because I am not prepared to go that far, I respectfully dissent.

First, the Court need not address the constitutional issue at all. Whatever may be said of the statutory burden of proof, the trial court in this case imposed upon the State the burden of establishing that Fry should be denied bail. And the trial court determined that the State carried its burden. The record supports the trial court’s judgment, which this Court correctly affirms. In my view that should be the end of the matter. We need not inquire any further.

As for the merits, I applaud Justice David’s scholarly research and in-depth analysis. But for ill or good, this State has charted a course different from that of some other jurisdictions. * * *

In any event we need not overrule existing precedent or declare the bail statute unconstitutional in the journey to chart a different course. Instead, again if a proper case were before us, then I would be in favor of harmonizing the statute in a way to uphold its constitutionality, and in the process distinguish rather than overrule existing precedent. This can be accomplished in my view by continuing to read the statute as imposing on the defendant “the burden of proof that he should be admitted to bail.” Ind. Code § 35-33-8-2(b). But clarifying that this burden does not come into play until after the State first introduces evidence demonstrating “more likely than not,” slip op. at 26, that the proof of the defendant’s guilt is evident or the presumption of guilt strong. In essence, we would accomplish the same end result the majority reaches today, but without the collateral consequences.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 25, 2013 10:26 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions