Indiana State University Newsroom

Indiana Appeals Court case at ISU piques Terre Haute mayor's interest

October 20, 2009

The Indiana Court of Appeals on Monday gave ISU students a first-hand look at the legal system in action, and drew Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett into an all too familiar setting.

Through a program unofficially referred to as "Appeals on Wheels," a panel of Chief Judge John G. Baker, Judge L. Mark Bailey, and Judge Margret G. Robb heard a case on appeal from Morgan County Superior Court.

At play in this appeal was whether evidence police seized during an arrest - that took place without probable cause - should have been suppressed.

According to court documents, Mooresville police took Brea Rice of Mooresville into custody on July 9, 2008 while executing an arrest warrant for receiving stolen property.

The arrest warrant was issued after police saw a motorcycle helmet in the garage that was later determined to be stolen.

The trial court denied Rice's motion to suppress, finding that the police conduct was not "sufficiently deliberate" to justify suppressing evidence. Rice's appeal contends the trial court abused its discretion in denying her motion to suppress.

Monday's appeal gave defense and prosecuting attorneys 20 minutes to argue whether there was probable cause to issue the search and arrest warrants and whether police executed them in good faith.

At the conclusion of their remarks, the judges offered no immediate response to the case and said they would issue their opinion in writing within the next few weeks.

While the focus of the day's events was designed to help inform students about the legal process, the event drew a broader crowd that ironically included Vigo County Superior Court Judge David Bolk and Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett.

Bolk's December 2008 decision in a case that questioned Bennett's eligibility to run for Terre Haute mayor was one of several highlights in a 19-month legal case that made its way through the appellate court. That battle ended in June when the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in Bennett's favor - effectively allowing him to retain his position.

Bennett attentively watched the proceedings Monday. At the conclusion of the arguments, Baker directly addressed the crowd and acknowledged Bolk's and Bennett's presence.

Bennett stood and publicly addressed the judge saying his own legal battles had piqued his desire to see the state court in action at ISU.

"I've had an opportunity to learn quite a bit about the Indiana Appeals Court in the last few months," Bennett said, chuckling. "It's much better to be a spectator."

Of the approximately 150 students who gathered to watch the appellate process Monday, several told the judges they aspire to attend law school and work in the legal field.

Thomas Simmons, a senior history and political science major from Munster, said having an opportunity to watch the legal process in action helped reinforce his decision to attend law school.

"It's heartening to hear from someone who does this on a daily basis," he said. "It's a great opportunity for students to see this here."

Linda Maule, associate professor of political science who serves as the coordinator of the annual event, said she believes hosting the Indiana Appeals Court is an important and distinct honor for ISU. Following the public hearing, her department hosted a reception recognizing the court for its 10-year relationship with ISU.

"People really appreciate seeing a portion of our government at work," Maule said. "This is teaching by example ... and it is an incredible experience for our students."

According to its Web site, the Indiana Court of Appeals has heard more than 250 oral arguments at law schools, colleges, high schools, and county courthouses since the program was established in 2000.

During 2008, only 120 of the 2,800 cases ruled upon by the court were argued in front of a panel of judges. Forty-one of those cases were argued at a location other than the Indiana State House, Baker said.

"It's a great program," he said. "It's an opportunity for us to stretch our legs ... and it's good for us to see the people we work for."

Contact: Linda Maule, associate professor of political science, College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana State University at 812-237-3941, or


Cutline: Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett (left) observes the proceedings Monday at ISU as a member of the crowd poses a question to the panel of Indiana Court of Appeals judges (Tony Campbell/ISU).

Cutline: Indiana Court of Appeals judges (from left) L. Mark Bailey, John G. Baker and Margret G. Robb listen to arguments in the case of Brea Rice v. State of Indiana. The court hearing took place Monday on the campus of Indiana State University (Tony Campbell/ISU).

Writer: Rachel Wedding McClelland, assistant director of media relations, Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University at 812-237-3790 or

Story Highlights

Indiana State University on Monday hosted the Indiana Court of Appeals as it listened to oral arguments concerning probable cause in a search and seizure case that involved a Mooresville woman. Among the observers in the audience was Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett whose own case went before the appellate court last year.

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