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Appeals court upholds rape conviction

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A man convicted of rape based on DNA evidence and his admission that he had sex with the victim failed to prove to the Indiana Court of Appeals that he was denied a fair trial due to the admission of hearsay testimony and a sustained objection to an attempt to refresh the victim’s memory.

Corey Cole was convicted of rape for an assault in a car at a bar parking lot where the victim, J.S., had been placed by her bartender boyfriend, D.R., after she became intoxicated and passed out at the bar, according to court records.

D.R. and J.S.’s roommate checked on her periodically, but the last time the roommate checked, she witnessed a man exit the car and take off running. J.S. was passed out in a state of undress, witnesses said.

Police and a sex crimes investigator arrived and attempted to rouse J.S. but couldn’t. She didn’t wake until she was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, where evidence was collected using a rape kit.

DNA analysis of fluids found on the victim identified Cole as a suspect. At trial Cole said he had intercourse with the victim but it was consensual. He was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison with six years suspended.

In his appeal, Cole said the Marion Superior Court committed fundamental error by allowing hearsay  evidence from witnesses regarding a beer bottle found in the parking lot with his fingerprints. Cole argued the court committed reversible error when it sustained a state objection to his attempt to refresh the victim’s memory with a nurse’s notes about how much the victim had  to drink.

Appeals court Judge Melissa May wrote in the unanimous opinion, Corey Cole v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1111-CR-1019, that “Cole invited some of the error, the uninvited statements were cumulative of other testimony, and they did not likely contribute to the decision regarding Cole’s guilt. Accordingly, we affirm.”

The court cited Meadows v. State, 785 N.E.2d 1112, 1122 (Ind. Ct.App. 2003), that holds that erroneous admission of evidence is not a reason for reversal if there is “substantial independent evidence of guilt so that there is no substantial likelihood that the challenged evidence contributed to the conviction.”

“The testimony about which Cole complains did not likely contribute to his conviction. Cole admitted he had sex with J.S. on the night in question, which places him at the scene of the crime regardless of whether his fingerprint was on a beer bottle and his DNA was on J.S. Therefore, based on Cole’s own testimony, we cannot say fundamental error occurred,” May wrote.

 

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