GREENFIELD — The Indiana Supreme Court has overturned a conviction in a Hancock County felony criminal case over a technicality.
Lisa Kane, 35, of Greenfield, was convicted in July of receiving stolen property, a Class D felony, after a brief trial in Hancock County Superior Court 1. Kane was sentenced to three years on the charge with a year enhancement for admittedly being a habitual offender, court documents state.
But the Supreme Court has now ruled the jury that convicted Kane was not given proper instructions before deliberating, and the case will have to be refiled, according to court documents.
The case dates back to 2010, when Kane and her longtime boyfriend, Sam Rifner, moved out of their apartment because Rifner had lost his job. Rifner, court documents state, moved in with his parents, and his mother contacted police after she discovered Kane had pawned some of her property, including video game equipment.
Rifner admitted to having taken the equipment, but the pawn shop records bore Kane’s signature, as well as her thumbprint court documents state.
During the trial process, Kane’s attorney objected to a jury instruction which allowed the jury to convict Kane regardless of whether the state proved she knew the items she pawned were stolen.
Kane’s attorney had argued there was no evidence Rifner and Kane had talked about pawning the stolen items in advance or planned the act, expressing concern “the jury could convict Kane based on (Rifner’s) actions ‘without necessarily proving that she had knowledge.’”
The court offered a slightly revised version of the instruction in accordance with prior case law, and the jury went on to convict Kane after a two-day trial.
An appellate court, while divided, affirmed the conviction, with the majority deciding “the evidence, while circumstantial, was nonetheless sufficient to support the inference that Kane knew the property was stolen,” court records state.
When transferred to the Supreme Court, a panel found the jury instruction was an incomplete statement of Indiana’s accomplice law, which states, “a person who knowingly or intentionally aids, induces or causes another person to commit an offense commits that offense…”
Kane’s attorney, Brent Eaton, said he knew even the revised instruction was lacking.
“The Supreme Court evidently thought it was a big deal or they wouldn’t have sent it back,” Eaton said. “Clearly, it fell short because that’s what the court said.”
Hancock County Prosecutor Michael Griffin said he believes the case has merit and intends to refile the charge against Kane.