Student union meeting room becomes courtroom

October 4 2007

Court was in session inside Indiana State University’s Hulman Memorial Student Union Thursday.

The Indiana Court of Appeals traveled to Terre Haute to hear oral arguments in a murder case in which a trial court dismissed all charges against the defendant.

After listening to the arguments by Cynthia Ploughe, who represented the state, and Joseph Cleary, who represented the defendant, the judges and attorneys answered questions posed by the students and community members.

“How often is it that you get to ask questions of a judge'” Linda Maule, associate professor of political science, said of the session.

The court sessions, which have been to ISU for six years, are educational, she said.

“For students to have the opportunity to view the Indiana Court of Appeals in action is an exceptional learning experience,” she said. “It exposes them to a function of government they don’t often see, but impacts their lives.”

Judge Patricia Riley agreed that it was an educational process, but added that the judges also learned through the students’ questions and interaction with them.

“Every judge loves it,” Riley said about the traveling oral arguments program. “We get a chance to teach about the process, about what we do.”

For the students in attendance, they enjoyed listening to the case and being able to ask questions of the judges.

“I really liked that I got to see the appeals portion and what happened with it (which is different) than the trials and what happens on TV,” said Marcus Tener, a sophomore political science major from Terre Haute.

Crystal Amons, a senior legal studies and African American studies major from Indianapolis, said it wasn’t her first time to listen to oral arguments, but she found it interesting.

“This one was a lot faster,” she said.

She also enjoyed listening to the judges answer questions, especially as she desires to attend law school and to possibly become a judge.

“You get to actually hear from them what they thought about the courts and their experience,” she said.

She also thought the experience was great for the students.

“It’s easier to go somewhere on campus and get the experience of being in court, especially for the freshmen who don’t drive and don’t know they can go sit in on trials,” she said.

While it was an educational experience, the oral arguments concerned an actual case pending before the panel of three judges.

The state charged Rex David Delph of with two counts of murder and felony murder and one count of arson for setting his Anderson home on fire, which resulted in the deaths of his wife and son, in 2004. The trial court dismissed the charges against Delph in 2006, finding the state violated Delph’s constitutional right to a speedy trial.

Ploughe argued that the trial delays were due to the defense.

“All continuances in this care were by the defendant,” she said. “The state never asked for a continuance.”

Cleary argued that the delay was due to not receiving evidence from federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms investigators in the case.

“I don’t think there was any way for us to have a fair trial without that evidence,” he said.

Ploughe said the state was prepared to go to trial without that information, as it did not have it either.

“The ATF had it,” she said. “The state cannot tell the federal government what to do.”

“They don’t like that I noticed,” Judge Cale Bradford replied.

Although Cleary and Ploughe were stating their side cases, they also had to answer numerous questions asked by the judges. At one point, Riley told Cleary, “You have to get a better argument as to why you didn’t object when it was over the year.”

Riley said the judges should make their decision in the case in 60 to 90 days.

Photos Judicial lesson Indiana State University students and community members listen intently as the Indiana Court of Appeals hears oral arguments in a murder case inside the university's Hulman Memorial Student Union. (Leslie Thais/ISU)
Court in session A three-judge panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals hears oral arguments in a murder case inside a meeting room of Indiana State University's Hulman Memorial Student Union. (Leslie Thais/ISU)

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, assistant director of media relations, Indiana State University, (812) 237-7972 or

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Story Highlights

The Indiana Court of Appeals traveled to the Indiana State University campus to hear oral arguments in a murder case and provide students and community members a chance to ask questions about the judicial process.

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