9/13/12 – TG: Alamo lawyers ask for review of opinion. Defense wants all 8th Circuit judges to take another look at decision of panel of three

Texarkana Gazette
September 13, 2012
By: Lynn LaRowe

Alamo lawyers ask for review of opinion.
Defense wants all 8th Circuit judges to take another look at decision of panel of three

Lawyers for imprisoned evangelist Tony Alamo are asking all judges on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals take another look at a recently released opinion in a civil lawsuit filed by two former male members that affirmed a jury’s finding Alamo is guilty of battery, conspiracy and outrage.

Last month, a three judge panel of 8th Circuit federal judges ruled in favor of plaintiffs Spencer Ondrisek and Seth Calagna, two men who were raised in Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, although the $66 million awarded by the jury to the men was reduced to $30 million.

The men testified at trial they were beaten until bloody by enforcer John Kolbek with a wooden paddle, forced to labor unpaid, denied educations, forced to go days without food and separated from their families.

Alamo’s lawyers filed a motion Monday arguing the panel of judges who penned the recent opinion ignored precedent-setting opinions previously released by the 8th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.

At issue is the trial court’s decision to deny a request from the defense to include information about Arkansas law concerning corporal punishment of children in instructions to the jury before they began their deliberations in the case.

Alamo’s defense lawyer at trial, John Wesley Hall of Little Rock, wanted the jury to be given the following instruction: It is a complete defense to battery in that reasonable corporal punishment was imposed on plaintiffs by a school administrator, teacher, parent, or person entrusted or otherwise responsible for a child’s care and discipline because the plaintiffs were engaging in any conduct that was disruptive, harassing of others, constituted bullying, violence, or other unacceptable conduct.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant denied the request.

In the three-judge opinion handed down last month, the issue of the jury instruction on battery was not analyzed. The court found even if there was error, it was harmless because the jury found Alamo guilty of conspiracy and outrage as well as battery.

But Alamo’s lawyers disagree.

“Without this key instruction about the law, the jury was permitted to view the alleged conduct as wholly wrongful without being called upon, as they should have been, to first determine whether it was instead merely an overstepping of proper corporal punishment.

Both of these logical impacts of the refused corporal punishment instruction indicate that the instructional error affected the outrage and, consequently, the battery verdicts,” wrote Missouri attorney John Roberts in Alamo’s request to have the full court consider the case.

Texarkana attorney David Carter, who represents Ondrisek and Calagna, said he agrees with the August order affirming the jury’s findings.

In: 2012, Breaking News

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