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Appeals court affirms admission of victim video in molestation trial

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St. Joseph Probate Court did not err when it allowed videotaped evidence of a child molesting victim to be presented at the fact-finding hearing of a minor who subsequently was placed at the Indiana Boys School.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling in A.R.M. v. State of Indiana, No. 71A05-1111-JV-613. “The juvenile court did not err when it determined that the child victim’s videotaped statement to a forensic interviewer was reliable and that, on the facts presented, the child victim had testified at the fact-finding hearing, which was equivalent to the trial required by the (Protected Persons Statute),” Judge Edward Najam wrote for the panel.

The appeal involves A.R.M., one of four children of a mother who lived with two friends in South Bend. A.R.M. was a 13-year-old boy accused of crimes against an 8-year-old boy that would have been felony child molestation and battery if committed by adults, according to court records. At trial, A.R.M. was adjudicated a delinquent and committed to the Indiana Department of Correction for placement at the Indiana Boys School.

At issue in the appeal was the reliability of the videotaped interview with the victim, S.M., conducted several days after the incident. The interview took place at the office of St. Joseph Child Abuse Services Investigation and Education center.

A.R.M. contended the videotape didn’t meet the standard under the PPS to be reliable, and that the state didn’t meet the requirement of having S.M. testify or showing, through medical testimony or other evidence, that S.M. was unavailable to testify at the fact-finding hearing. The appeal also suggested the victim had been coached by his mother.

The appeals court ruled otherwise, saying no evidence of coaching existed, and that the court satisfied admission requirements to assure the videotaped evidence was reliable.

“We cannot say that the juvenile court abused its discretion when it determined that the time, content, and circumstances of the videotape provide sufficient indications of reliability,” Najam wrote.

 

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