INDIANAPOLIS | A Gary man convicted of robbing a Merrillville bank is not entitled to a new trial, even though a Lake County judge had a bailiff cover the man's mouth to stop him from testifying.
The Indiana Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed a September 2011 Court of Appeals decision that said Kenneth Vaughn should have been granted a mistrial because the bailiff's actions prejudiced the jury into thinking Vaughn was a dangerous man who needed to be restrained and suggested his guilt was a foregone conclusion.
Vaughn, 31, was on the witness stand testifying in his own defense when Vaughn's attorney asked him to discuss the robbery charges against him.
Vaughn instead questioned his attorney's trial strategy and continued to do so even after Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. told him to stop three times. With the jury watching, the judge ordered the court bailiff to put his hand over Vaughn's mouth to compel him to stop talking. The jury was sent out of the courtroom shortly thereafter.
In a 4-1 decision, written by Justice Steven David, the Supreme Court said while the judge could have found a better way to keep control in his courtroom, a bailiff placing his hand over Vaughn's mouth did not deny Vaughn a fair trial.
"We find no actual harm because the incident was so brief, taking place in literally just a few moments," David wrote. "The incident was so minor, in fact, that counsel did not immediately object, only raising the objection after defendant concluded his testimony."
Vaughn is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence for the 2008 robbery of Merrillville's Fifth Third Bank and resisting police.