Baniszewski v. State, No. 31042

Docket NºNo. 31042
Citation22 Ind.Dec. 490, 256 Ind. 1, 261 N.E.2d 359
Case DateSeptember 01, 1970
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

Page 359

261 N.E.2d 359
256 Ind. 1
Gertrude BANISZEWSKI, alias Gertrude Wright, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Indiana, Appellee.
No. 31042.
Supreme Court of Indiana.
Sept. 1, 1970.

[256 Ind. 2] William C. Erbecker, James Manahan, Erbecker & Manahan, Indianapolis, for appellant.

[256 Ind. 3] Theodore L. Sendak, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Douglas B. McFadden, Chief Counsel, Duejean C. Garrett, Richard V. Bennett, Rex P. Killian, Michael V. Gooch, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee.

ARTERBURN, Judge. *

This is a criminal charge brought in the Marion County Criminal Court upon an indictment charging the appellant with the crime of first degree murder. The evidence introduced at the trial indicated that the victim, Sylvia Marie Likens, died on October 26, 1965 from a combination of burns, bruises, cuts and a head injury. The evidence shows these injuries were particularly heinous and the trial created considerable sensation and publicity. The victim was found on the date of her death by a police officer in the bedroom of appellant's home where she had been residing in the City of Indianapolis.

The appellant was charged with five other co-defendants including her 17 year old daughter Paula, her 15 year old daughter Stephanie and her 12 year old son John Stephen, with two other co-defendants, Richard Hobbs, age 15, and Coy Hubbard, age 15.

We find there are a number of reasons in combination and in support of each other that compel us to reverse this case.

Page 360

It is first urged that undue and prejudicial publicity throughout the news media prior to and during the trial created an unfavorable atmosphere such that the defendant could not get a fair trial in Marion County. Two of the principal newspapers of the State are published in the City of Indianapolis and a number of television and radio stations are located in that area. They all took part in a discussion of the case, which had more than the usual sensational features.

The defendant asked for a change of venue from the county because of the prejudicial publicity. The motion for a change [256 Ind. 4] of venue was denied. Taking into consideration the nature of the charge, its penalty, and the totality of the incidents surrounding the alleged crime, the appellant, in our opinion, presented a very strong case for a change of venue from the environment where she was compelled to go to trial. During the trial the publicity continued and the appellant made a motion for a mistrial and also a motion to withdraw the case from the jury. A table was set up specially for the news media in the courtroom during the trial. The newspapers in Indianapolis carried such headlines as:

'Courtroom Jammed as Torture Trial Opens.'

'State Charges Plan to 'Hide' Body of Sylvia.'

'Two Women Scuffle For Seat at Trial.'

'Likens Trial Judge Allows Standees.'

'Sobbing Girl Put Out of Likens Trial.'

'Slain Girl's Parents in Courtroom.'

'Sylvia Foresaw Death, Sister Sobs.'

'Sylvia's Torture Compared to Nazis' Brutality.'

'Sickening Likens case Details Told.'

In many respects the publicity connected with the case is similar to the famous Sheppard v. Maxwell case (1966), 384 U.S. 333, 362, 86 S.Ct. 1507, 1522, 16 L.Ed.2d 600, 620. In that case the United States Supreme Court stated:

'* * * From the cases coming here we note that unfair and prejudicial news comment on pending trials has become increasingly prevalent. Due process requires that the accused receive a trial by an impartial jury free from outside influences. Given the pervasiveness of modern communications and the difficulty of effacing prejudicial publicity from the minds of the jurors, the trial courts must take strong measures to ensure that the balance is never weighed against the accused. And appellate tribunals have the duty to make an independent evaluation of the circumstances. Of course, there is nothing that proscribes the press from reporting events that transpire in the courtroom. But where there is a reasonable likelihood that prejudicial news prior to trial will prevent a fair trial, the judge should continue the case until the threat abates, or transfer it to [256 Ind. 5] another county not so permeated with publicity. In addition, sequestration of the jury was something the judge should have raised sua sponte with counsel. If publicity during the proceedings threatens the fairness of the trial, a new trial should be ordered. But we must remember that reversals are but palliatives; the cure lies in those remedial measures that will prevent the prejudice at its inception. The courts must take such steps by rule and regulation that will protect their processes from prejudicial outside interferences. Neither prosecutors, counsel for defense, the accused, witnesses, court staff nor enforcement officers coming under the jurisdiction of the court should be permitted to frustrate its function. Collaboration between counsel and the press as to information affecting the fairness of a criminal trial is not only subject to regulation, but is highly censurable and worthy of disciplinary measures.'

It is next urged that the defendant was not give the constitutional protection and

Page 361

warning provided in Escobedo v. Illinois (1964), 378 U.S. 478, 84 S.Ct. 1758, 12 L.Ed.2d 977. The facts show that police officers entered the home of the appellant, questioned her, and took certain notes she claimed the decedent had given her. The police officers then took the appellant to the police station that evening for further questioning, kept her overnight in jail, brought her before a police magistrate the next morning, and then told her that she need not say anything and that she was entitled to have an attorney. They did not state that she was entitled to have an attorney if she was a pauper and that the attorney was entitled to be present during the questioning. They proceeded then to question her and take her written statement. We find the following testimony of Sgt. Kaiser relevant as to the denial of defendant's constitutional rights:

'Q. At the time you talked to her did you effectively warn her of her constitutional rights to remain absolutely silent?

A. Not at that time.

Q. You...

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27 practice notes
  • Drollinger v. State, No. 778S146
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • August 26, 1980
    ...has shown only one minor error in the conduct of the trial, we conclude he was not denied due process. Cf. Baniszewski v. State, (1970) 256 Ind. 1, 261 N.E.2d Finally, appellant Drollinger challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. In support of this issue, he makes two arguments: first, h......
  • Jefferson v. State, No. 3-679A180
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • January 30, 1980
    ...Sims v. State (1977), 265 Ind. 647, 358 N.E.2d 746; Monserrate v. State (1971), 256 Ind. 623, 271 N.E.2d 420; Baniszewski v. State (1970), 256 Ind. 1, 261 N.E.2d Page 820 However, it has also been held that the improper admission of a defendant's confession which implicates a jointly tried ......
  • Lindsey v. State, No. 172A29
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • May 23, 1972
    ...1639, 6 L.Ed.2d 751 (1961); Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333, 86 S.Ct. 1507, 16 L.Ed.2d 600 (1966), and Baniszewski v. State, Ind., 261 N.E.2d 359 In Napier v. State, Ind., 266 N.E.2d 199 (1971), Justice Givan, speaking for our Supreme Court, stated: 'We hold that the case at bar does not ......
  • State v. Reiman, Nos. 12451
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • October 31, 1979
    ...may force a defendant in many cases to take the stand unwillingly to defend himself against such statements. Baniszewski v. State, 256 Ind. 1, 261 N.E.2d 359 (1970). A severance is also obligatory where one defendant's case rests heavily on the exculpatory testimony of a co-defendant who, t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
27 cases
  • Drollinger v. State, No. 778S146
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • August 26, 1980
    ...has shown only one minor error in the conduct of the trial, we conclude he was not denied due process. Cf. Baniszewski v. State, (1970) 256 Ind. 1, 261 N.E.2d Finally, appellant Drollinger challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. In support of this issue, he makes two arguments: first, h......
  • Jefferson v. State, No. 3-679A180
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • January 30, 1980
    ...Sims v. State (1977), 265 Ind. 647, 358 N.E.2d 746; Monserrate v. State (1971), 256 Ind. 623, 271 N.E.2d 420; Baniszewski v. State (1970), 256 Ind. 1, 261 N.E.2d Page 820 However, it has also been held that the improper admission of a defendant's confession which implicates a jointly tried ......
  • Lindsey v. State, No. 172A29
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • May 23, 1972
    ...1639, 6 L.Ed.2d 751 (1961); Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333, 86 S.Ct. 1507, 16 L.Ed.2d 600 (1966), and Baniszewski v. State, Ind., 261 N.E.2d 359 In Napier v. State, Ind., 266 N.E.2d 199 (1971), Justice Givan, speaking for our Supreme Court, stated: 'We hold that the case at bar does not ......
  • State v. Reiman, Nos. 12451
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • October 31, 1979
    ...may force a defendant in many cases to take the stand unwillingly to defend himself against such statements. Baniszewski v. State, 256 Ind. 1, 261 N.E.2d 359 (1970). A severance is also obligatory where one defendant's case rests heavily on the exculpatory testimony of a co-defendant who, t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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