Com. v. Baker, No. 1998-CA-000935-MR.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Kentucky
Writing for the CourtHuddleston
Citation11 S.W.3d 585
Decision Date14 January 2000
Docket NumberNo. 1998-CA-000935-MR.
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Kentucky, Appellant, v. Earnestine BAKER, Appellee.
11 S.W.3d 585
COMMONWEALTH of Kentucky, Appellant,
v.
Earnestine BAKER, Appellee.
No. 1998-CA-000935-MR.
Court of Appeals of Kentucky.
January 14, 2000.

Page 586

A.B. Chandler III, Attorney General, Todd D. Ferguson, Assistant Attorney General Frankfort, Kentucky, for Appellant.

Mark J. Stanziano, Somerset, Kentucky, for appellee.

BEFORE: DYCHE, GARDNER1 and HUDDLESTON, Judges.

OPINION

HUDDLESTON, Judge:


The Commonwealth of Kentucky appeals from a Pulaski Circuit Court order dismissing with prejudice an indictment charging Earnestine Baker with six counts of assault in the second degree.

In early May 1997, Baker's two daughters, ages 14 and 16, were arguing and fighting with each other. According to Baker, after they failed to heed her verbal command to stop, she struck each of the two girls with a wooden stick. The Division of Social Services of the Cabinet for Families and Children was notified of the incident and the children were removed temporarily from the home on the basis of child abuse.

On May 13, 1997, Detective Randy Goff of the Somerset Police and Cynthia Maggard of Social Services interviewed the two children, who told them that Baker had hit them with a wooden stick. One of the girls also showed them bruises on her thigh and arm, but the other had no visible signs of injury. Both girls stated that they had been struck with various wooden objects in the past. The next day, Detective Goff conducted a taped interview of Baker, who admitted having hit the girls with a wooden stick in an effort to discipline them. Upon searching the family's apartment, Detective Goff recovered several wooden sticks of various sizes, one of which was described as a billy club.

Baker was charged in Indictment No. 97-CR-00103 with six felony counts of criminal abuse involving two beating incidents in May 1997. While that indictment was pending, Detective Gary Jones, who was Detective Goffs supervisor, appeared before the Pulaski County grand jury and testified that Baker had struck her children with an aluminum baseball bat. On

Page 587

December 3, 1997, the grand jury returned Indictment No. 97-CR-00170 charging Baker with six felony counts of assault in the second degree (Ky.Rev.Stat.(KRS) 508.100) concerning the same conduct involved in the prior indictment for criminal abuse. The second indictment alleged that between May 1 and 31, 1997, Baker had committed the offense of "Assault in the Second Degree by wantonly causing serious physical injury to [her two daughters] by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument." Following Baker's arraignment on Indictment No. 97-CR-00170, the trial court granted the Commonwealth's motion to amend the indictment to substitute the word "intentionally" for the word "wantonly," and to dismiss Indictment No. 97-CR-00103.

On March 9, 1998, Baker filed a motion to dismiss the indictment or, in the alternative, to amend the charges to fourth-degree assault. In her motion, Baker argued that she had a constitutional right to use reasonable corporal punishment to discipline her children and that the Commonwealth had failed to show that Baker's conduct satisfied the statutory requirements for second-degree assault. In the motion, Baker noted that the instrument used in the incidents was described by the prosecution at various times as a "wooden club," "billy club," "wooden stick" and "aluminum baseball bat." However, Baker did not seek dismissal at that time based on any irregularities in the grand jury proceedings. On March 16, 1998, the Commonwealth filed a response to the motion arguing that dismissal of the indictment would be premature. Baker filed a reply and asserted, for the first time, that the indictment should be dismissed or the case should be re-presented to the grand jury because the indictment was based on false testimony.

The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the motion on March 23, 1998. At the hearing, Baker's attorney asked the court to dismiss the indictment with prejudice because of alleged false testimony before the grand jury. Counsel argued that the prosecution's actions were so egregious that the Commonwealth should not be allowed to present the case to a new grand jury. Detective Jones was the only witness present at the hearing. He testified that he presented the case to the grand jury because Detective Goff, the investigating officer, was temporarily unavailable. He admitted that he had little knowledge about the case and merely relied on the prosecutor to provide the relevant information by answering his questions. He acknowledged that he had testified that Baker struck her children with an aluminum baseball bat, but conceded that there was no evidence that a baseball bat was used.2

On April 3, 1998, the trial court dismissed Indictment No. 97-CR-00170 with

Page 588

prejudice. The court noted the ethical obligation of prosecutors to observe the independent status of the grand jury and ensure that indictments are returned in a just manner. It found that Detective Jones's testimony concerning the use of an aluminum baseball bat was materially false and that it affected the grand jury's decision whether to indict on the assault charge, which required the use of a deadly weapon. The court also found that the Commonwealth's Attorney had knowingly or recklessly elicited false testimony before the grand jury through leading and suggestive questions, and Detective Jones voluntarily testified even though he had no personal knowledge of the facts of the case. The court held that dismissal of the indictment with prejudice was necessary to ensure the integrity of the criminal justice system.

On appeal, the Commonwealth challenges the dismissal of the indictment and, especially, its dismissal with prejudice. The Commonwealth argues that the trial court lacked authority to dismiss the indictment based on false testimony before the grand jury and, even if it had such authority, that the court abused its discretion in dismissing the indictment with prejudice.

Courts are extremely reluctant to scrutinize grand jury proceedings as there is a strong presumption of regularity that attaches to such proceedings.3 Ordinarily, courts should not attempt to scrutinize the quality or sufficiency of the evidence presented to the grand jury4 "An indictment returned by a legally constituted and unbiased grand jury ... if valid on its face, is enough to call for trial of the charge on the merits."5

However, in Bank of Nina Scotia v. United States,6 the United States Supreme Court recognized the federal court's inherent supervisory authority to dismiss an indictment based on nonconstitutional irregularities, including prosecutorial misconduct occurring before a grand jury. "Under this standard, dismissal of the indictment is appropriate only `if it is established that the violation substantially influenced the grand jury's decision to indict,' or if there is `grave doubt' that the decision to indict was free from the substantial influence of such violations."7

Generally, a defendant must demonstrate a flagrant abuse of the grand jury process that resulted in both actual prejudice and deprived the grand jury of autonomous and unbiased judgment.8 A court may utilize its supervisory power to dismiss an indictment where a prosecutor knowingly or intentionally presents false, misleading or perjured testimony to the grand jury that results in actual prejudice to the defendant.9 The requirement that the defendant show both a flagrant abuse of the process and actual prejudice was explained in United States v. Roth:10

The first requirement, that the government know the evidence was perjured, is intended to preserve the principle

Page 589

that an indictment cannot be...

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48 practice notes
  • Hoskins v. Maricle, No. 2002-SC-0579-MR (KY 12/16/2004), No. 2002-SC-0579-MR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • December 16, 2004
    ...comply with Interstate Agreement on Detainers, KRS 440.450, Art. III(1), required dismissal). See also Commonwealth v. Baker, Ky. App., 11 S.W.3d 585, 588-90 (2000) (indictment properly dismissed upon proof that prosecutor knowingly or intentionally presented false, misleading or perjured t......
  • Hoskins v. Maricle, No. 2002-SC-0579-MR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • August 26, 2004
    ...to comply with Interstate Agreement on Detainers, KRS 440.450, Art. III(1), required dismissal). See also Commonwealth v. Baker, Ky.App., 11 S.W.3d 585, 588-90 (2000) (indictment properly dismissed upon proof that prosecutor knowingly or intentionally presented false, misleading or perjured......
  • Keeling v. Commonwealth, No. 2010–SC–000351–MR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • October 25, 2012
    ...jeopardy attaches, or severe cases of prosecutorial misconduct. Id. at 690–91;see also Hoskins, 150 S.W.3d at 13;Commonwealth v. Baker, 11 S.W.3d 585, 590 (Ky.App.2000) (recognizing that prosecutorial misconduct may rise to such an egregious level, as to justify dismissal with prejudice). T......
  • Stopher v. Com., No. 1998-SC-0334-MR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • November 21, 2001
    ...that resulted in actual prejudice and deprived the grand jury of autonomous and unbiased judgment." Commonwealth v. Baker, Ky.App., 11 S.W.3d 585, 588 First, Appellant urges this Court to declare unconstitutional that part of RCr 5.08 which provides: "If the defendant notifies the attorney ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
48 cases
  • Hoskins v. Maricle, No. 2002-SC-0579-MR (KY 12/16/2004), No. 2002-SC-0579-MR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • December 16, 2004
    ...comply with Interstate Agreement on Detainers, KRS 440.450, Art. III(1), required dismissal). See also Commonwealth v. Baker, Ky. App., 11 S.W.3d 585, 588-90 (2000) (indictment properly dismissed upon proof that prosecutor knowingly or intentionally presented false, misleading or perjured t......
  • Hoskins v. Maricle, No. 2002-SC-0579-MR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • August 26, 2004
    ...to comply with Interstate Agreement on Detainers, KRS 440.450, Art. III(1), required dismissal). See also Commonwealth v. Baker, Ky.App., 11 S.W.3d 585, 588-90 (2000) (indictment properly dismissed upon proof that prosecutor knowingly or intentionally presented false, misleading or perjured......
  • Keeling v. Commonwealth, No. 2010–SC–000351–MR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • October 25, 2012
    ...jeopardy attaches, or severe cases of prosecutorial misconduct. Id. at 690–91;see also Hoskins, 150 S.W.3d at 13;Commonwealth v. Baker, 11 S.W.3d 585, 590 (Ky.App.2000) (recognizing that prosecutorial misconduct may rise to such an egregious level, as to justify dismissal with prejudice). T......
  • Stopher v. Com., No. 1998-SC-0334-MR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • November 21, 2001
    ...that resulted in actual prejudice and deprived the grand jury of autonomous and unbiased judgment." Commonwealth v. Baker, Ky.App., 11 S.W.3d 585, 588 First, Appellant urges this Court to declare unconstitutional that part of RCr 5.08 which provides: "If the defendant notifies the attorney ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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