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Frivolous Appeals Waste State Resources

Frivolous Appeals Waste State Resources

Originally Published November 4, 2014

We hear of endless dockets and overburdened courts ad naseam, this case helps to illustrate why.

Gary Marcum of Indianapolis appealed his Class A misdemeanor conviction for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Passerby, Joy Church, discovered Marcum unconscious and slumped over the steering wheel of his pick up truck. When Church encountered Marcum, Marcum’s truck was obstructing traffic as it sat diagonally across both lanes of 14th Street traffic. Church assumed Marcum dead as he slumped motionless. This prompted her to contact the police.

Marcum appealed his conviction, despite not disputing the validity of the facts. His argument on appeal was, “insufficient evidence existed to prove he ‘operated’ the vehicle.” Marcum admitted to becoming voluntarily intoxicated, entering the pickup truck, and the truck’s location changing from the time he entered.  Marcum even attributes his memory loss to a vodka-induced stupor. But according to Marcum, since the state failed to produce an eyewitness who observed him actually drive the truck, there was insufficient evidence to convict.

The question raised in this appeal is not worthy of judicial entertainment, whether Marcum “operated a vehicle.” Precise, corroborated facts make alternative scenarios less than likely. With this reality one must question whether state resources should be devoted to supporting such frivolous legal battles.

The US Constitution grants every citizen the right to a fair trial. In the interest of justice, everyone is entitled to defend him or her self in court. However, that same protection ought not extend to appeals. When legitimate errors or misinterpretations of law occur, those situations deserve a remedy. But, every conviction does not involve egregious errors requiring extensive review.

This case was fairly elementary, yet the system allowed a party thereto to manipulate it and adversely affect all tax payers in the state. Unless we seek to question the laws of physics and delve into whether Mr. Marcum was transported to the vehicle telepathically, he clearly operated the car. Could there be another reason for his circumstance? Surely, otherwise fiction novelists would be unemployed. But the law should exhaust resources hunting through every cockamamie scenario appellants present, to have their convictions overturned.

According to the laws of Indiana, the state was only responsible for proving that 1) Marcum operated a vehicle; 2) he was intoxicated; and 3) he did so in a manner that endangered a person. Ind. Code § 9-30-5-2(b) (2013). Marcum admitted to the second and third element, and only denied the first because there was not an eyewitness testifying to the act.

In determining whether sufficient evidence existed to convict Marcum, appellate courts are not authorized to reweigh the evidence; they merely consider the evidence favorable to the judgment. Smith v. State, 8 N.E.3d 668, 679 (Ind. 2014). According to Judge Robb, “whether the defendant operated the vehicle is a question for the trier of fact.”

Then why agree to hear the case in the first place? Here’s a solution: dismiss the case as frivolous [since it was] and move on to more pressing judicial matters. 

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