Justia Indiana Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

By
Indiana appellate courts reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence must apply the same deferential standard of review to video evidence as to other evidence unless the video evidence indisputably contradicts the trial court’s findings. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for resisting law enforcement and battery to a law enforcement animal as class A misdemeanors, holding that the video evidence presented at trial did not indisputably contradict the testimony of five police officers, and there was other evidence that sufficiently established the elements of the crimes. The Supreme Court’s holding supplemented its standard of review for video evidence to add a narrow failsafe to prevent impermissible reweighing by appellate courts when reviewing video evidence. View "Love v. State" on Justia Law
By
Posted in:
Updated:

By
Plaintiffs filed a personal injury case arising out of an automobile collision. At trial, Plaintiffs introduced into evidence Defendant’s prior alcohol-related driving convictions. The jury returned a verdict for Plaintiffs. Defendant appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of his prior criminal convictions. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court, holding (1) the evidence of Defendant’s prior alcohol-related driving offenses was relevant and potentially admissible for a limited purpose; (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of Defendant’s 1983 and 1996 alcohol-related traffic offenses; and (3) the compensatory damages award and the punitive damages award were supported by the evidence and were not excessive. View "Sims v. Pappas" on Justia Law
By
Posted in:
Updated:

By
The Supreme Court held that evidence obtained after a search and seizure was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment and that the trial court erred in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the search and seizure. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, concluding that law enforcement officers had reasonable suspicion to approach and question Defendant after they received a call that someone of Defendant’s description had a handgun on him. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the intrusion by the police was not reasonable in this case. View "Pinner v. State" on Justia Law

By
Fifteen years after the Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s conviction for murder, Appellant filed an amended petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance. The post-conviction court denied relief on the merits. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, in viewing the evidence without certain inadmissible hearsay statements, Appellant established grounds for relief by a preponderance of the evidence. Specifically, the Court held that counsel’s errors, which allowed the jury to consider the only evidence that identified Appellant as the shooter in determining his guilt or innocence, were sufficient to undermine confidence in the verdict rendered in this case. View "Humphrey v. State" on Justia Law

By
The Supreme Court held that the Open Courts Clause of the Indiana Constitution allows unauthorized immigrants to pursue claims for decreased earning capacity damages in a tort action. The Court then provided an evidentiary framework for determining when that plaintiff’s unauthorized immigration status is admissible at trial. The trial court in this personal injury case allowed evidence of Plaintiff’s immigration status and excluded testimony calculating Plaintiff’s decreased lifetime earning capacity due to his injury as unreliable for failing to account for Plaintiff’s immigration status. The Supreme Court reversed, provided the framework for addressing when immigration status is admissible in a decreased earning capacity tort claim, and remanded for the trial court to apply this framework. View "Escamilla v. Shiel Sexton Co." on Justia Law

By
The Supreme Court held that the “third-party doctrine,” which provides that police are not required to obtain a search warrant to gather information an individual has voluntarily relinquished to a third party, applies as to historical cell-site location information (CSLI). Defendant appealed his convictions on four robbery-related counts, arguing that the State violated his Federal and State Constitutional rights by obtaining historical cell-site location information (CSLI) from his cell-phone service provider and that a detective improperly testified as an expert witness regarding the CSLI. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under the Fourth Amendment, Defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in his cell-phone provider’s historical CSLI; (2) the Indiana Constitution does not prohibit police from taking reasonable actions like obtaining minimally intrusive historical CSLI from a service provider to prevent a criminal suspect from striking again; and (3) the detective sponsoring the CSLI at trial properly testified as a skilled witness. View "Zanders v. State" on Justia Law

By
Defendant appealed his convictions for two counts of murder for which the trial court imposed consecutive life without parole sentences. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to sustain the murder convictions; (2) the trial court properly found that the State proved the I.C. 35-50-2-9(b)(11) aggravator beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting into evidence Defendant’s recorded phone calls made to a special agent, as the phone calls were not protected by Defendant's Sixth Amendment right to counsel; and (4) Indiana’s life without parole statutory sentencing scheme is constitutional. View "Leonard v. State" on Justia Law

By
The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications brought a judicial disciplinary action against Tommy D. Phillips II, Judge of the Dunkirk City Court (Respondent), after Respondent pleaded guilty to battery against a public safety official. Respondent and the Commission agreed that, by being convicted for battery against a public safety official, Respondent violated Code of Judicial Conduct Rules 1.1 and 1.2. The parties agreed that the appropriate sanction was a public reprimand on the condition that Respondent tender his resignation as the Dunkirk City Court judge and that he shall not be eligible for future judicial service. The Supreme Court imposed the sanction of a public reprimand and assessed the costs of this proceeding against Respondent. View "In re Honorable Tommy D. Phillips II" on Justia Law
By
Posted in:
Updated:

By
TCI Architects (TCI) entered into an agreement with Gander Mountain to serve as the general contractor on a construction project. TCI subcontracted with Craft Mechanical, which subcontracted with B.A. Romines Sheet Metal (Romines) to perform heating and ventilation work for the project. Michael Ryan, an employee of Romines, sustained serious bodily injuries while working at the Gander Mountain construction site. Ryan filed a complaint for damages for the injuries sustained, naming TCI and Craft as defendants. The trial court granted summary judgment for TCI. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the contract between TCI and Gander Mountain did not create a duty. The Supreme Court granted transfer, thereby vacating the court of appeals’ opinion, and reversed, holding that TCI affirmatively demonstrated an intent to assume a non-delegable duty of care toward Ryan by entering into a contract containing language that required TCI to assume responsibility for implementing and monitoring safety precautions and programs for all individuals working on the site and by agreeing to designate a safety representative to supervise the implementing and monitoring. Remanded. View "Ryan v. TCI Architects/Engineers/Contractors, Inc." on Justia Law
By
Posted in:
Updated:

By
Police officer Dwayne Runnels suffered serious injuries after he was shot by Demetrious Martin. Martin, a convicted felon who could not legally purchase or possess a firearm, received the firearm by Tarus Blackburn, who made a “straw purchase” for the firearm from KS&E Sports. Runnels filed a complaint against KS&E; Blackburn; and Edward Ellis, a KS&E officer, director, and shareholder. KS&E and Ellis moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that Ind. Code 34-12-3-3(2) granted them immunity. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Runnel’s negligence, piercing-the-corporate-veil, and civil-conspiracy claims, which demand only money damages, must be dismissed because section 34-12-3-3(2) functions as a limited immunity statute that insulates KS&E from suits for “recovery of damages resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a firearm…by a third party”; (2) the statute does not immunize KS&E from Runnel’s public-nuisance claim seeking equitable relief; and (3) the statute is not preempted by federal law and does not violate either the state or federal Constitution. View "KS&E Sports v. Runnels" on Justia Law