Inadmissible evidence leads to new trial

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Court of Appeals today reversed and remanded for a new trial a case in which a defendant was convicted of fraud on a financial institution and identity deception based on documents that should not have been admitted as evidence.

In William J. Speybroeck v. State of Indiana, 20A05-0701-CR-40, Speybroeck appealed his conviction, arguing the state did not properly authenticate business documents pursuant to Indiana Evidence Rule 902(9) and that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting documents into evidence under Indiana Evidence Rule 803(6), the business records exception to the hearsay rule. Speybroeck also appealed whether a retrial is appropriate.

Speybroeck purchased a Kawasaki motorcycle from Maple City Cycle by opening a credit card through the business using the Social Security number and date of birth of his father, Robert, without Robert's permission. William also purchased parts for the motorcycle with the Kawasaki credit card; he never made any payments on the card.

Robert learned that William used his personal information to open an account in his name through HSBC bank and authorized police to investigate William. In October 2004, the state charged William with fraud on a financial institution and identity deception.

Before the jury trial began, William objected to the admissibility of the state's Exhibit 11, which included a notarized affidavit signed Oct. 23, 2006, by a bank employee and numerous documents from Kawasaki. William argued the affidavit wasn't authentic because it didn't indicate how many pages were attached nor did it identify what documents it was authenticating. Computer printouts included in Exhibit 11 were dated a day after the affidavit.

Williams also argued the Kawasaki documents, which included invoices and credit slips used by William, could not be admitted because the affidavit couldn't authenticate how Maple City and Kawasaki conducted its businesses nor could they be admitted because HSBC didn't create them in the ordinary course of its business.

The trial court overruled William's objection and admitted Exhibit 11 into evidence. William was found guilty and sentenced to an aggregate term of 16 years with six years suspended.

The court agreed the affidavit from HSBC bank does not authenticate the attached documents because it never specified which documents it purports to authenticate and it lacks a specific number of pages of documents. The affidavit lacks trustworthiness and does not comply with Rule 902(9) and all non-authenticated documents must be excluded from Exhibit 11, wrote Judge Edward Najam.

HSBC's submission of Kawasaki letters and documents are also not covered by the affidavit because the person recording the documents must do so in the regular course of business and have personal knowledge of the information. None of the Kawasaki documents satisfy Rule 803(6)'s requirements of reliability. Someone at HSBC was required to have personal knowledge of the information contained in the Kawasaki documents.

Because Exhibit 11 should not have been admitted into trial, William's convictions must be reversed, wrote Judge Najam. The state repeatedly used Exhibit 11, so it had to have impacted the judgment. The court remanded for a new trial and cited Ground v. State (Ind. Ct. App. 1998) and Stahl v. State (Ind. 1997).

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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues