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Admitting rifle into evidence not abuse of discretion, COA rules

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Telling the jury that an assault rifle was found in the car of the defendant did not unduly prejudice the jurors, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

Joseph Fuentes was convicted of Class A felony attempted murder, Class C felony possession of a handgun by a felon, Class D felony criminal recklessness and Class D felony resisting law enforcement after he fled from South Bend police officers and fired a gun at one of the officers who pursued him on foot.

Fuentes appealed his convictions, in part, on the grounds that the trial court erred in admitting evidence about the AR-15 rifle found in the trunk of his car. He claimed the weapon was irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction in Joseph Fuentes v. State of Indiana, 71A04-1310-CR-522. The unanimous panel ruled the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the rifle into evidence.

“Here is it clear that the presence of a rifle, which was not registered to Fuentes, in the trunk of Fuentes’s car was relevant to the question of Fuentes’s motive to flee from the police,” wrote Judge Paul Mathias. “That is, the presence of the rifle made it more likely that Fuentes had a reason to flee from the police when he was ordered to stop. And we do not think that the relevance of this rifle was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.”
 

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