When you’re a defendant in a criminal proceeding in Indiana, you find yourself plunged into an entirely different world. Suddenly, you have to become familiar with criminal justice procedure, certain legal terminology, and the various facts and factors that may be relevant to your case.
To help you understand this world a little better, in this post we review three prominent Indiana crime stories in 2019 and discuss the takeaway, from a defendant’s point of view.
1. Mistrial in the case of an accused murderer and cannibal.
In July 2019, an Indiana judge declared a mistrial in the case of Joseph Oberhanely, a man accused of raping, murdering, partially eating his former girlfriend. A mistrial can occur for many reasons, but particularly when either a jury cannot agree on a verdict or when a judge declares that an error in the trial renders the proceeding invalid.
In this case, the defense lawyer argued that a witness’s reference to Oberhanely’s prior criminal history “tainted” the way the jury would see him, endangering his right to a fair trial. The judge agreed and declared a mistrial.
What happens next? After a mistrial, there might be another trial or the prosecutor might be ready to find a plea deal acceptable to the defense.
Lesson learned: Mistrials usually benefit the defendant. Trials are lengthy and expensive, and many prosecutors seek to avoid them, if possible. If the prosecutor does request another trial, the defense team has a greater advantage because they’ve seen the other side’s strategy.
2. Defendant found not guilty of murder in a nightclub shooting
After less than an hour’s deliberation, a jury found Justin Devon Anderson not guilty of shooting and killing a man at the Oasis nightclub. The defense attorney claimed that the prosecutor’s case depended upon the testimony of five witnesses, however, all five witnesses gave different testimonies. Moreover, none of them could swear that Anderson shot the victim, as many people were shooting at the time. The defense also argued that because Anderson was from out-of-town, the witnesses tried to blame him rather than others they might know.
What happens next? Anderson is a free man.
Lesson learned: Witness testimony can make or break a case. You have to put in the work to find witnesses that support you or help your defense attorney to thoroughly discredit the witnesses.
3. A judge overturns an attempted murder conviction because of suppressed evidence
In February, a federal appeals court vacated a 1994 attempted murder conviction after learning that the Indiana prosecutor failed to reveal that the state’s only witness had undergone hypnosis to boost his memory prior to giving testimony at trial. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that hypnosis could cause people to conjure pseudo-memories or increase confidence in inaccurate memories.
The appeals court did not throw out the conviction exclusively because the witness underwent hypnosis, however, but because the state failed to disclose this information. The court noted that the suppression of evidence violated pre-trial discovery rules.
What happens next? There could be a new trial, but the state may choose to drop the case.
Lessons Learned: New evidence that comes to light, even decades later, make an impact on your case. Defendants and their lawyers should always remain watchful for useful evidence, even when it seems too late to make a difference.
The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Razumich & Associates are ready to fight for your rights and the best possible outcome in your case. Call us today at (317) 983-5333.