COA holding oral arguments for appeals involving involuntary manslaughter PCR petition, summary judgment award - The Indiana Lawyer (2024)

COA holding oral arguments for appeals involving involuntary manslaughter PCR petition, summary judgment award - The Indiana Lawyer (1)

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The Court of Appeals of Indiana will hear oral arguments in two cases next week, including one in which a man is challenging the denial of his post-conviction relief petition for an involuntary manslaughter conviction.

Oral arguments in John Brennan Larkin v. State of Indiana, 23A-PC-1081, will begin at 2 p.m. Feb. 28 in the Court of Appeals Courtroom at the Indiana Statehouse.

According to court records, Larkin is appealing the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.

Larkin was charged with Class A felony manslaughter after being accused of fatally shooting his wife, Stacey Renee Larkin, in December 2012. Long Beach Police Department officers found his wife dead in their home from two gunshot wounds.

The LaPorte County trial court dismissed the manslaughter charge filed against Larkin and the Court of Appeals of Indiana affirmed, finding state officials including Robert C. Neary intentionally meant to hurt Larkin’s defense, making it impossible for him to receive a fair trial.

The Indiana Supreme Court, however, reinstated the manslaughter charge in June 2018, and Larkin was convicted at a trial in September 2019.

At the trial, the prosecutor requested that the trial court instruct the jury on the offense of involuntary manslaughter, which was granted.

The Court of Appeals ruled in Larkin’s favor a second time in November 2020, overturning his conviction based on an erroneous jury instruction. It found the information did not allege Larkin shot Stacey “with an intent to batter rather than with an intent to kill” or that he “committed [a] battery by pushing Stacey.”

But a split Indiana Supreme Court reinstated his conviction.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justices Mark Massa, Geoffrey Slaughter and Christopher Goff concurred, while now-retired Justice Steven David dissented with a separate opinion, arguing that he would let the appellate court’s decision stand.

Concluding that involuntary manslaughter based on a battery was a factually included lesser offense, the high court noted there was a serious evidentiary dispute about the elements that distinguish voluntary manslaughter from involuntary manslaughter.

“During his interview, Larkin stated that he only intended to push Stacey with the gun. If the jury believed him, then it could (as it did) convict him of involuntary manslaughter,” Massa wrote for the majority. “But he also mentioned the heated verbal and physical confrontation between him and Stacey just before she was shot, his finger’s placement on the trigger at one point, and the serious marital issues between them. Larkin’s witnesses also testified about those issues.”

In his appeal, Larkin argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial attorneys failed to prepare an adequate defense to the involuntary manslaughter charge.

The oral arguments can be viewed online.

The other case the COA will hear next week — Ashley Jackson, Personal Representative of the Estate of Michael L. Jackson, Deceased v. E& B Paving, LLC, et al.Jackson v. E&B, 23A-CT-950 —involves the appeal by the estate of a man struck and killed near a road project on Indianapolis’ east side.

According to the wrongful death complaint filed in Marion Superior Court in April 2020, on July 22, 2018, Michael L. Jackson was walking northbound on the shoulder of Mitthoeffer Road

when he was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by Karl R. Satter II.

The complaint alleged the collision was in part caused by the carelessness and negligence of Satter for failing to maintain a reasonable and proper lookout, failure to maintain control of his vehicle and driver inattention, failure to drive with due care when a pedestrian is present and leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death in violation.

Jackson was walking through an Indianapolis roadway renovation project when he was struck by Satter’s vehicle.

Jackson’s estate sued the city, the designer of the renovation project, general contractor E&B Paving LLC, several subcontractors and the city’s project representative, alleging wrongful death and negligence.

The trial court granted summary judgment to the contractor, a subcontractor and representative, concluding that they owed no duty of care to Jackson sufficient to support the estate’s negligence claims.

The estate appealed, arguing that, as entities who contracted to work on a public project, the defendants owed a duty to the public, including Jackson, to safeguard the passage of pedestrians through the Mitthoeffer Road project.

Oral arguments will be heard at 11:15 a.m. on Feb. 27at Wabash College’s Salter Hall, Fine Arts Center in Crawfordsville.

The traveling oral argument will not be webcast live because it will not take place in the Court of Appeals Courtroom.

Video of the event will become available within about one week after the hearing.

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COA holding oral arguments for appeals involving involuntary manslaughter PCR petition, summary judgment award - The Indiana Lawyer (2024)
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