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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court (SCOIND) issues two opinions today

In Jamar Washington v. State of Indiana, a 12-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice David writes:

In this case the defendant alleges that the trial court improperly instructed the jury regarding his claim that he was acting in defense of another. The defendant argues that the Court of Appeals misinterpreted our precedent in this area. Finding that the trial court did not err in its final instructions when it used the existing Indiana Pattern Jury Instruction on defense of another, we affirm the defendant’s conviction but remand the case to the trial court to correct an error in the abstract. * * *

We have granted transfer to address the jury instructions for self-defense and defense of another and the interpretation of Shaw v. State and French v. State. * * *


Conclusion. We affirm the decision of the trial court. Here, the instruction given by the court was a correct statement of law and Washington’s tendered instructions were not required. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to give them. We hold that the Indiana Pattern Jury Instruction is a correct statement of the law and continues to serve as the primary guide for our trial judges on this issue. It contains language which compliments the self-defense or defense of another statute regarding the factors as they existed in the mind of the defendant balanced against whether such belief was reasonable. Trial courts continue to have the discretion to augment the pattern instructions whenever they deem appropriate and to refuse any tendered instructions consistent with the requirements of Walden. Their decisions will be reviewed for an abuse of discretion.


However, we remand the case to the trial court to correct the abstract of judgment, as conceded by the State and held by the Court of Appeals. Specifically, there was a clerical error on the abstract of judgment. It states that Washington was convicted of Class D felony resisting law enforcement. The actual judgment of conviction states that Washington was convicted of Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement. Therefore, upon remand, the trial court should enter a corrected abstract of judgment accurately reflecting that Washington was convicted of Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement.

In Billy Russell v. State of Indiana, a 7-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice David writes:
In this case, the defendant claims that the trial court should have given his tendered jury instruction on self-defense; however, his tendered instruction would have incorrectly limited the jury’s consideration to his subjective belief without assessing its reasonableness. Further, the defendant alleges that the trial court erred by not completely bifurcating the trial on his Serious Violent Felon (“SVF”) charge from the trial on his murder charge. Finding that the trial court did not err in utilizing the existing Indiana Pattern Jury Instruction on self-defense and in partially bifurcating the trial, we affirm the defendant’s convictions for murder and class B felony possession of a firearm by a SVF. * * *

The trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to give Russell’s tendered jury instruction or by partially bifurcating Russell’s trial. Accordingly, we grant transfer and affirm Russell’s convictions.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 13, 2013 12:56 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions