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Willis v. State

Indiana Supreme Court
888 N.E.2d 177 (Ind. 2008)


J.J. Willis, an 11-year-old boy, had a history of disciplinary issues, including lying and stealing from others. One day, J.J. stole some of his mother’s clothes and took them to his elementary school where he gave them to a classmate. A teacher contacted J.J.’s mother, Sophia Willis (defendant), who identified the clothes as being hers. Sophia confronted J.J. about the clothes and he denied taking them. Sophia warned that if J.J. did not tell the truth he would be punished. J.J. continued to deny any wrongdoing. Sophia instructed J.J. to remove his pants and place his hands on the upper bunk bed. Sophia struck J.J. on the buttocks 5-7 times with a belt or extension cord. A few of the blows resulted in bruises on J.J.’s arm and thighs. A school nurse saw J.J.’s bruises and contacted child protective services who in turn contacted the Indianapolis Police Department. Sophia was charged with felony battery on a child. After a bench trial Sophia was found guilty and sentenced to 365 days in jail with 357 days suspended to probation. Sophia appealed. The court of appeals affirmed. The Indiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Rucker, J.)

Dissent (Sullivan, J.)

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