The Indiana Court of Appeals has overturned the murder conviction of Joshua Risinger, who was arrested and tried for setting a 2017 fire at his trailer that killed a homeless man, saying police “failed to scrupulously honor″ his right to remain silent.
Risinger appealed with several arguments, including that the trial court wrongly allowed statements he made to police where he said, “I’m done talking.″
In an opinion issued this month, the appeals court agreed. The three-judge panel said while Risinger could’ve been clearer in invoking his Miranda rights, the law doesn’t require such a formal declaration.
His statement was “an unequivocal invocation of his right to remain silent pursuant to Miranda, and the detective’s continuation of questioning thereafter was a failure to scrupulously honor that right,” according to the decision.
The decision was handed down on December 9 and Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Dustin Houchin says he is working to file an objection with the Supreme Court to overturn the appeal.
“The Court of appeals overturned the murder conviction,” said Houchin. “They found that the defendant’s right to remain silent was violated because police questioning continued after he said he was “done talking.”
Risinger pled not-guilty in March 2017 in Washington County Circuit Court to a murder charge he was facing after he told police he set fire to his trailer at Southway Villa Mobile Home Park earlier that week.
He was found guilty having been found guilty by Jury Trial on November 30‘“, 2019 of COUNT 1, Guilty but Mentally ill at the time of the offense of Murder, Felony; COUNT 2, Guilty but Mentally ill at the time of the offense of Felony Murder and COUNT 3, Guilty of Arson.
“I want to be clear that the Indiana State Police did nothing wrong in this case,” said Houchin. “The way the officers questioned the defendant was within the law.”
Risinger allegedly told police he killed a man named “Gilbert” by starting a fire in the home. The body was later identified as 62-year-old Jeffery Givan.
“This Court of Appeals opinion is, in my view, an expansion of existing law, and not consistent with prior opinions of the Indiana higher courts,” Houchin said. “Such a ruling could not have been anticipated by the police at the time. I am currently working with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office to request [a] review of this opinion by the Indiana Supreme Court. I believe we have a good chance of the Supreme Court reviewing it because it is out of line with prior cases.”
Houchin said Risinger will remain incarcerated.
“This ruling does not set him free. We have 45 days to request a transfer, and the defense will have 20 days after that to respond. In all, we are looking at several months before we know. If we are not successful with the Supreme Court review, the case will return to the Washington Circuit Court. At that time, I will retry the case.”
Risinger remains in custody at Miami Correctional Facility in Bunker Hill.
Risinger’s Judgement and Conviction and Sentence CLICK HERE – Judgment