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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court issued 2nd ruling today, a consolidated opinion

In Saundra S. Wahl v. State of Indiana and Daniel P. Wahl v. State of Indiana, an 8-page, 4-1 consolidated opinion, Justice Dickson writes:

In light of the conduct of an alternate juror during jury deliberations, we reverse the defendants' convictions for Involuntary Manslaughter. * * *

The juror's affidavit in this case established by a preponderance of the evidence that the alternate juror's participation in jury deliberations was an external influence that pertained to the case. Under Ramirez, these showings result in a presumption of prejudice to the defendants. Because the State has not rebutted the presumption by showing that the jury was nevertheless impartial, a new trial is required. We reverse the convictions and remand for retrial or further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Rush, C.J., and Rucker and David, JJ., concur.
Massa, J., concurs in part and dissents in part with separate opinion. [which begins, at p. 6] As far as we can tell from the incomplete record, the Wahls are getting a new trial because the jury viewed properly admitted evidence sent with them to the jury room, improperly emphasized by an alternate’s words, gestures and facial expressions. And we grant this relief without knowing if deliberations were actually affected. We should know more before ordering this result. * * *

I concur in the Court’s decision to reverse the trial court’s denial of the Wahls’ motion for a mistrial, but dissent as to the grant of a new trial.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 15, 2016 04:15 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions