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Appellate court upholds murder conviction

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found the circumstantial evidence presented at trial was sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that a man killed his wife.

In Scott Pattison v. State of Indiana, No. 85A02-1101-CR-88, Scott Pattison challenged his felony murder conviction, arguing the trial court violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment and Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution by admitting surveillance equipment and video into evidence. He also claimed the trial court abused its discretion by allowing the jury to examine a weightlifting machine during deliberations and by refusing his request to question the jurors about their examination of the machine.

Pattison called 911 to say that his wife, Lisa, wasn’t breathing; she later died at the hospital. Pattison told police that he had come home from work to find his wife’s body in their exercise room, lying on a weightlifting bench with a weight bar pinned across her throat. Police saw Pattison’s home had a surveillance system but didn’t think it recorded anything since a DVD was missing from the slot. Police later learned that the surveillance system recorded to an internal hard drive. A search warrant allowed for police to seize the system, which held a recording showing Pattison arriving home from work hours earlier than what he told police.

At trial, the weightlifting machine was installed in the courtroom and the jury was allowed to come back into the room during deliberations to examine it. Some jurors recreated scenarios played out during the trial by detectives and witnesses.

The appellate court found a lot of the information used in the probable cause affidavit was stale, and it was a close call, but the remaining information could support the search warrant under the federal and state constitutions. The judges also found no issues with the jurors’ examination of the weightlifting machine because the experiments the jurors conducted with it were in line with the testimony presented at trial. There was also no abuse of discretion by the trial court in denying Pattison’s request to question the jury about their experiments.

The circumstantial evidence in the case – including that the Pattisons’ marriage was under severe stress and Lisa’s neck injury wasn’t consistent with the weight bar falling on her neck – was sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Pattison killed his wife, the judges ruled.

 

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