Rennert v. State, 674S128

Docket NºNo. 674S128
Citation263 Ind. 274, 329 N.E.2d 595
Case DateJune 19, 1975
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

Page 595

329 N.E.2d 595
263 Ind. 274
Robert Joseph RENNERT, Appellant (Defendant Below),
STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff Below).
No. 674S128.
Supreme Court of Indiana.
June 19, 1975.

Page 596

Bruce S. Cowen, Fort Wayne, for appellant.

Theodore L. Sendak, Atty. Gen., Robert E. Dwyer, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee.

[263 Ind. 275] HUNTER, Justice.

Appellant Robert Joseph Rennert was indicted by the grand jury of Allen County which charged him with first degree murder in the death of Roger D. Hudson and second degree murder in the death of Daniel L. Wolfe. Appellant pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Jury trial resulted in verdicts of guilty as charged. Appellant was then sentenced to life imprisonment on conviction of first degree murder, and imprisonment for fifteen to twenty-five years on conviction of second degree murder. From the overruling of his motion to correct errors, appellant brings this appeal, presenting four issues for our determination.


Appellant's first assignment of error is the trial court's denial of his motion to dismiss and plea in abatement through which he sought to strike down the grand jury indictment 'for the reason that there were unauthorized persons in the Grand Jury Room during the taking of testimony.' When Jack James, an eighteen year old suspect in the case, appeared before the grand jury, he was accompanied by counsel and his parents. The record contains a stipulation that the parents 'took no part

Page 597

in the proceedings,' but James' attorney cross-examined him.

The law regarding the presence in the grand jury room of those unauthorized by statute, see IC 1971, 35--1--15--10, Ind.Ann.Stat. § 9--810 (Burns Supp.1974) (Clerk-Stenographer), IC 1971, 35--1--15--23, Ind.Ann.Stat. § 9--826 (Burns 1956 Repl.) (Prosecutor), was set forth by this Court in State v. Bates (1897), 148 Ind. 610, 612--13, 48 N.E. 2, 3:

'It is the rule that the presence of a stranger in the grand jury room during the investigation of a criminal charge is not sufficient to abate an indictment, unless it appears that the person indicted was thereby injured in his substantial rights. Shattuck v. State, 11 Ind. 473; Courtney v. State, 5 Ind.App. 356, 32 N.E. 335; State v. Clough, 49 Me. 573, 576; State v. Kimball, 29 Iowa 267; Bennett v. State, 62 Ark. 516, 535, 36 S.W. 947.

[263 Ind. 276] 'In State v. Clough (supra), 49 Me., on page 576, the court said: 'The mere fact that a stranger was present when an indictment was found would not render it void. Though obviously proper, and highly important, that the proceedings of a grand jury should be in secret, one who is indicted cannot take any advantage of it if they are not. Shattuck v. State, 11 Ind. 473. The secrecy is not required for his benefit, but otherwise. 'One reason may be to prevent the escape of the party, should he know that proceedings were in train against him; and another may be to secure freedom of deliberation and opinion among the grand jurors, which would be impaired if the part taken by each might be known to the accused.' 1 Greenl.Ev., section 252.' Nor will any indictment be set aside on the ground of informalities or irregularities, when it is not shown that the defendant has been prejudiced in his substantial rights.'

Unable to demonstrate actual prejudice flowing from the presence of the outsiders, appellant urges us to adopt a per se rule modeled after the one utilized in the federal system of presuming prejudice when unauthorized persons appear before the grand jury. We decline to do so. The rule of Bates requiring proof of prejudice by an appellant collaterally attacking his conviction preserves all due process rights of the individual while protecting the interests of society in maintaining convictions justly secured. Moreover, the rule requiring proof of prejudice in attacking grand jury proceedings has been a workable one. See e.g., Jaudon v. State (1970), 255 Ind. 114, 262 N.E.2d 851. In the absence of any prejudice to the appellant, there was no error in the overruling of his motion to dismiss and his plea in abatement.


Appellant challenges the overruling of his objection to the admission of State's Exhibit No. 37. That exhibit was a letter, written by appellant while in jail, and addressed to one Frank Craig, c/o Defiance Crescent News, Defiance, Ohio. Apparently intended to be published as a letter to the editor, it bears the salutation, 'Dear Society.' The letter recounts a homosexual attack upon the appellant when he was a youth and [263 Ind. 277] continues by describing a more recent molestation when the appellant was 'too drugged to fight.' In an attempt to 'escape the thought of what happened,' appellant took some 'acid.' The drugs backfired, however, and appellant killed his molester (Hudson) and another man who was present. The letter then concluded with a plea not to take drugs. Counsel's objection at trial to the admission of the letter reads:

MR. FINK: 'Your Honor, at this time the defense would object to the introduction of State's Exhibit 37 on these following grounds, that the obtaining of the document in question, the exhibit in

Page 598

question, I think is in violation of certain Constitutional rights of this defendant; namely, the Ninth, Fourteenth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.'

Appellant's motion to correct errors sought correction:

'For an uncorrected error of law occurring in the trial proceedings in that the trial court, over objection, admitted into evidence State's Exhibit No. 37, same being a letter written by the defendant from the jail and confiscated by the jail authorities, thus violating the defendant's rights under the Constitution of the United States.'

And appellant argues in this brief:

'Thus, the reading and confiscation of the letter of the defendant herein violated his constitutional rights under the first and fourteenth amendments of the Constitution of the United States, was an illegal seizure of evidence, and therefore said evidence should have been excluded as fruits of a poisoned tree.'

Appellant's fourth amendment claim, framed in terms of 'an illegal seizure,' is tenuous at best. Undoubtedly, there is a legitimate...

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18 cases
  • Brewer v. State, 678
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • March 6, 1981
    ...This assignment is not available for review under our appellate rules, inasmuch as it was not presented at trial. Rennert v. State, (1975) 263 Ind. 274, 329 N.E.2d 595; Pinkerton v. State, (1972) 258 Ind. 610, 283 N.E.2d 376. Defendant's position that he is, nevertheless, entitled to review......
  • Watkins v. State, s. 978S198
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • March 17, 1983 the claim was not presented at trial. Pinkerton v. State, (1972) 258 Ind. 610, 624, 283 N.E.2d 376, 384; Rennert v. State, (1975) 263 Ind. 274, 278, 329 N.E.2d 595, 598-99; Barnes v. State, (1971) 255 Ind. 674, 675, 266 N.E.2d 617, At the time the witness identified Smith, counsel was as......
  • Moritz v. State, 1-783A215
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • June 26, 1984
    ...of Internal Revenue, (7th Cir.1954) 214 F.2d 19 cert. denied 348 U.S. 909, 75 S.Ct. 294, 99 L.Ed. 713. Rennert v. State, (1975) 263 Ind. 274, 329 N.E.2d 595. State v. Bowman, (1981) Ind., 423 N.E.2d 605. Even for change of venue purposes, and for continuance purposes, any ruling regarding p......
  • People v. Garvey, Cr. 18872
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • December 3, 1979
    ...(See, e. g., State v. Matthews (1975) 217 Kan. 654, 538 P.2d 637 (defendant was notified at the time of booking); Rennert v. State (1975) 263 Ind. 274, 329 N.E.2d 595 (defendant was provided with stationary with a warning printed on it); United States v. Wilson (9th Cir. 1971) 447 F.2d 1 (i......
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