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Majority affirms conviction despite no witnesses

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An appellate judge dissented from the majority's decision to uphold a woman's conviction of operating a car after her driving privileges had been forfeited for life, finding that confirming her conviction would break from precedent.

In Cathy A. Crawley v. State of Indiana, No. 49A05-0905-CR-280, Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Riley believed the evidence of the case created a probability that Cathy Crawley was driving the car that crashed into an acquaintance's pool early in the morning, but that the probability is less than beyond a reasonable doubt. She based her dissent on previous rulings that dealt with the sufficiency of evidence to prove operation of a car, and found the majority's affirmation of Crawley's conviction goes against the precedent set by those cases.

Crawley was found by acquaintance Donald Jones in his backyard early in the morning in November 2008; she was soaking wet, wearing boxer shorts, a tank top, and no shoes. She was disoriented and asked if Jones had seen her car. After searching for a moment, she realized the car was partially in Jones' above ground pool. Crawley's purse, jacket, and cigarette butts were found by his hot tub. Jones believed she had been drinking and Crawley admitted to taking pills used to treat seizure disorders and panic attacks. No one had seen her drive the car into the pool, but she was alone when she was found.

Over Crawley's objections, Jones called the police. Crawley had borrowed the car from a friend weeks earlier and then refused to return it. She was convicted of Class C felony operating a motor vehicle after driving privileges are forfeited for life.

Judges Nancy Vaidik and Terry Crone affirmed the conviction because they believed when taken as a whole, the substantial circumstantial evidence supported the trial court's inference that Crawley operated the car, ultimately drove it into Jones' pool, and was found alone and impaired at the scene. She also frequently referred to the car as hers.

The majority rejected Crawley's arguments that she was too intoxicated at the time she made the statement about nobody being with her, so it wasn't reliable; that the trial court put substantial weight on the fact that water was found in her purse and that it must have come from the pool; and Crawley's challenges to the trial court's discrediting of her friend's testimony about when Crawley was at her house because her arguments would require the appellate court to reweigh the evidence.

"We find it to be of no moment that nobody observed Crawley operate the motor vehicle because the State presented sufficient circumstantial evidence from which the trier of fact could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Crawley operated the motor vehicle," wrote Judge Vaidik.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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