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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today

In Gary Wayne Oswalt v. State of Indiana, a 10-page, 5-0 opinion (including J.Massa concurring in result), Chief Justice Rush writes:

Under Indiana’s “exhaustion rule,” parties may seek appellate review of for-cause challenges to prospective jurors only if they have exhausted their peremptory challenges. But what if they use their last peremptory challenge for its traditional purpose of striking a candidate they consider undesirable, instead of using it to cure the trial court’s refusal to strike an allegedly incompetent one for cause? The State argues that doing so violates the exhaustion rule, thus waiving appellate review. We disagree and hold as a matter of first impression that parties satisfy the exhaustion rule the moment they use their final peremptory challenge—regardless of whom they strike. We also hold that if parties fully comply with the exhaustion rule and demonstrate they were unable to remove any prospective juror for lack of peremptories, appellate courts may review denial of any motion to strike for cause, regardless of whether a challenged juror actually served on the jury. Our holding preserves the fundamental policy of the exhaustion rule while recognizing the cherished status of peremptory challenges. Here, Defendant preserved appellate review of three for-cause challenges, but because the trial court was within its discretion to deny all of them, we affirm his conviction. * * *

Oswalt satisfied the exhaustion rule and thus preserved appellate review of his motions to strike Jurors 7, 13, and 28 for cause—but he has not carried his burden to show the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motions. We therefore affirm his conviction. On all other grounds, we summarily affirm the decision by the Court of Appeals.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 22, 2014 12:41 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions