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Jones v. State

Supreme Court of Indiana

October 3, 2019

Kevin Duane Jones, Appellant(s),
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee(s).

          Trial Court Case No. 49G01-1609-F3-36200

          Order

          LORETTA H. RUSH CHIEF JUSTICE OF INDIANA

         This matter has come before the Indiana Supreme Court on a petition to transfer jurisdiction, filed pursuant to Indiana Appellate Rules 56(B) and 57, following the issuance of a decision by the Court of Appeals. The Court has reviewed the decision of the Court of Appeals, and the submitted record on appeal, all briefs filed in the Court of Appeals, and all materials filed in connection with the request to transfer jurisdiction have been made available to the Court for review. Each participating member has had the opportunity to voice that Justice's views on the case in conference with the other Justices, and each participating member of the Court has voted on the petition.

         Being duly advised, the Court DENIES the petition to transfer. Done at Indianapolis, Indiana, on _10/3/2019

         FOR THE COURT

          Massa, J., Slaughter, J., and Goff, J., vote to deny transfer. David, J., dissents from the denial of transfer

          with separate opinion in which Rush, C.J., joins.

         David, Justice, dissenting.

         Five years ago, we reaffirmed the principle that" [e]very accused has a constitutionally protected right to an impartial jury." Ramirez v. State, 7 N.E.3d 933, 934 (Ind. 2014). Today, we are confronted with the rare case in which both the State and Defendant agreed the right to an impartial jury was imperiled based on unauthorized contact between a juror and a member of the Defendant's family. After assessing the situation, the trial court denied a joint request for a mistrial and moved forward with the proceedings. The question pending transfer before our Court is whether the trial court erred when it took this action. Answering that question in the affirmative, I would find that the trial court acted contrary to our Court's precedent in Ramirez v. State when it failed to order a mistrial. Therefore, I respectfully dissent from the denial of transfer in this case.

         The record before us indicates a juror ("Juror 11") was approached by a family member of the Defendant during a break. Juror 11 recounted:

I was coming into the security and a gentleman just said, he said, "Oh, you're a juror." I said, "Yeah. Are you?" "No." He said, "My uncle's the Defendant," and then he kind of under his breath just said, "self-defense (inaudible)." Like something to that effect, kind of….

(Tr. Vol. 2 at 25.) When the court asked the juror if he could be "fair and impartial in this case," he answered, "Yes." (Id.)

         Juror 11 was then asked if he talked to any of the other jurors about this incident. The juror stated:

Yeah, I did tell the other jurors that I might be dispensed because someone came up and spoke to me, and then I said, "It wasn't anything bad," and then they're like, "No, we don't want to hear it." I'm like, "No, that's not what I'm saying." I just said, "It wasn't - I don't want anybody to be scared." (Id. at 26.) Based on this information, the State believed a mistrial was warranted because "there[ was] going to be something else in the jury room ...

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