The Pelley family was a religious group whom went to church every Sunday. However, On Sunday, April 30, 1989, the family did not show up in church and their neighbors noticed the cars were in the driveway. So Parishioners of the church got keys to the house and when walking in the home it was a bloodbath. Robert Jeffrey Pelley the son who was said to have been at his senior prom was questioned about the murder but was not charged with the crime until August 7, 2002. His charging for the crime became highly controversial as many questions why so much time passed before the prosecutors office found it necessary to bring Robert Pelley into their custody and charge him with the murder of his family. Time appears to be key issue in the case, however, as one continues to read, The United States Supreme Court has been proceeding over cases and have always made fair rulings based on evidence and presentation of the cases. For a case to make it to the Supreme Court it will make a huge change in the law for future cases that may use the case as a reference for future findings.
Robert Jeffrey Pelley v. State of Indiana was a controversial court case that brought much attention to its findings. On August 10, 2002 Robert J. Pelley was arrested and charged with the murders of his father, Robert (Bob) Pelley, step-mother, Dawn Pelley, and step-sisters Janel and Jolena. It became controversial when the State of Indian issued a subpoena requesting all documents from the Family & Children’s Center (FFC). The FFC was the center where the Pelley family attended counseling session to work through their problems. However, FFC replied by filing a motion to dismiss subpoena on February 6, 2003 stating that under Indiana Code section 25-23, 6-6-1, all counseling records were privileged and protected by the Indian code of patient/client confidentiality and stated that the session they had did not indicate any homicidal behavior. Hence, the state objected to the motion stating that the social worker/client privilege was not retroactive.
Some of the major issues involved in the case is the three-year delay and the violation of the thirteen year Criminal Rule 4(C), was it a fair trial since the state based the case on the victim’s hearsay and denying third-party motive, proof of case beyond a reasonable doubt, and the denial of Pelley’s Petition for a Special Prosecutor.
After the FCC filed the petition to quash the States request in obtaining the counseling documents for Mr. Pelley, on June 16, 2003, Court of Appeals denied the motion and case was transferred to the Indiana Supreme Court reverse the trial court’s granting of the Motion to Quash the opinion State v. Pelley 828 N.E.2d 915. The Indiana Supreme Court overturned the appeals decision and held that counselor/client privilege of Indian code 25-23, 6-6-1 did not apply because communications were made prior to the statute’s enactment and that counselor/client privilege did not have retroactive effect, therefore, the court did not abuse its discretion by conducting that the homicide exception in the psychologist/patient privilege statute did not apply.
Prosecution continues to refuse to look at third-party involvement sin the case, therefore, In June 29, 2007, Pelley filed a Petition for Writ of Prohibition and Writ of Mandamus, a Petition for Emergency Writ, and a brief in support with the Indiana Supreme Court. In his filings Pelley argued that the trail court should have granted his motion to dismiss based upon Indiana Criminal Rule 4(C) but the Supreme Court continued to deny Pelley’s petitions. Trial began on July 10, 2006 and the jury found Pelley guilty. He was sentenced to forty-years in prison and aggregate sentence of 160 years.
Cases of brutal murders are of high profiling in the United States. The slaughtering of the Pelley family became a Supreme Court Case due to the time passed prior to trial and obtainment of documentations for the Prosecutors office to prove Robert Jeffrey Pelley was guilty of murder. In order for a court to find a guilty plea, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the speculations are true.
Based on the readings, It seems that Mr. Pelley’s attorney took all the right steps in trying to prove his clients innocence’s. However, the Supreme Court and the jury were convinced that Pelley committed such horrible crimes. It looks that much more complicated because it seemed like without trial the Supreme Court found Mr. Pelley guilty of the crime and even after so many years passed they still allowed all the evidence to be collected that convicted the defendant. Even though the state itself delayed court time by changing the judge and having an impartial judge rule in the case caused for conflict but the Supreme Court simply ordered an Id for the proceeding judge who took over after initial judge was replaced.
The defense lawyer continued to argue that the courts were holding the wrong person responsible, by questioning why would the prosecutors office deny third-party involvement otherwise. When reading the case it can be very difficult to really state weather they got it right or wrong because some evidence state that he did the crime and others say that he did not. But the job of the attorney is to prove his clients innocents and the prosecutors job is to prove the crime was committed without a reasonable doubt. They did not consider third-party involvement because Jeff was grounded and the car was taken away from him so he was unable to attend the prom. But his sisters found out that he was able to attend prom not know the damage done at home. Prosecution used the grounding and the car being taken away as motive for murder. It was seen as “You grounded me and took away my car so I am going to hurt you.” Even though it seems completely irrational, the prosecutor kept in mind that Jeff Pelley was attending therapy and that the boy did need help. So they saw it necessary to file any motion, which I would have done the same in this case because it does not seem okay to brutally hurt the whole family over not being able to go to the school Prom. Also, when witnesses were presented, which the defense attorney could have said I have someone who will second Jeff Pelley’s statement that he did not harm his family, but there was no one that attested that Jeff was at a different place and had nothing to do with his families brutal murder.
Hence, the one thing in the case that simply does not make any since is why would Pelley murder his step-sisters. Were they involved in the argument between father and son where the crime escalated or did they see the murder of their step-father and mother and to protect himself Mr. Pelley had to remove all evidence or anyone who could point the finger at him.
If I were the prosecutor, I would have done things very similarly, however, I would have taken into consideration third-party involvement in the brutal murder of four families to simply have a settle mind set that I did not convict the wrong guy. The way the prosecutor proceeded with the case was correct because, no matter how much time passes a person should not go unpunished. Given that counselor/client privileges were violated, the court found it fit to obtain the documents so it was not illegal. If the therapist knew that the client was having homicide thoughts, he or she should have reported it, I know it is the privacy practice but how far does the privacy take a person when four people end up brutally murdered in the comfort of their own home.
But the trial did not stop there. Pelley filed yet another motion stating his innocence and none involvement in the delay of the court. This is when the court found concluded that Pelley was not responsible for the delay caused by the interlocutory appeal and the Indiana Supreme Court stated the following:
“This case confronts this Court with an extremely unpleasant but compelling responsibility. We realize that the defendant was ultimately convicted following an arduous jury trail. Such cases extract an enormous personal toll from the witnesses, jurors, and others participating. Resulting costs are significant and burden our taxpayers, and the time devoted to such trials and subsequent proceedings operate to delay the resolution of other pending controversies. It is with extreme reluctance that we must consider setting aside the defendant’s conviction, thus rendering futile the results of the jury trial which found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt”
Many times based on television shows, it seems as though with murder cases the jury is easily persuaded by the prosecutors office as they are seen as the protectors of the law. So, if I had the chance ot interview a juror who stood in that trial and made the final decision, it would be great to know, what was the main finding that led to a guilty decision and send a man to prison for life? Were there jurors who were disagreeing and causing arguments because they believed he was innocent? Did you for ones think that it is possible someone else committed the crime?
With all the evidence presented and lack of evidence by the defense side, the ruling on the case stands. However, many times with mental cases, the question of competency comes into play and leaves doubt. Was Pelley competent at the time of the crime? But with subpoenaed documents from the counselor, the notes and evaluations were taken into consideration that leaf for the court to find the defendant guilty without a reasonable doubt.