ILNews

Court: delayed rape conviction OK

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a defendant's rape conviction, finding his due process rights weren't violated when charges were filed in 2005 for a rape that happened nearly 25 years earlier.

In Thomas N. Schiro v. State of Indiana, No. 10A01-0701-CR-21, Thomas Schiro appealed his conviction of felony rape, arguing the trial court erred by denying his motion to dismiss the charges brought against him in 2005 for two rapes that occurred in 1980 and by admitting his written sexual autobiography and a photograph of his victim with her disabled daughter.

Schiro was in prison in 2005 when the state filed rape charges against him, alleging he had committed two rapes in late 1980. Schiro was in prison following his conviction for felony murder of an Evansville woman in February 1981. He was originally sentenced to death, which is why the state failed to file the rape charges against him for the two rapes in which both women at the time identified Schiro as their attacker. However, the Indiana Supreme Court set aside his death sentence in 1996 and imposed a 60-year sentence instead.

The state reopened the investigation into the rapes in 1997 but couldn't locate L.S., one of the victims. The state also had trouble finding Schiro's former girlfriend, who they believed was a key prosecution witness. Eventually, G.G., the other victim, L.S., and Schiro's ex-girlfriend were all found by 2005. The state charged Schiro with felony rape and felony criminal deviate conduct against both G.G. and L.S. Schiro filed motions to dismiss the charges, which the trial court denied.

The state also allowed portions of Schiro's sexual "autobiography" - written during a mental evaluation prior to his murder trial - which chronicled rapes, sexual assaults, and other crimes into evidence, as well as a photograph of L.S. with her disabled child. Schiro was found guilty on the charges committed against L.S., but not G.G. He was sentenced only on the rape charge because the statute of limitations had run out on the criminal deviate conduct charge. The trial court imposed a 40-year sentence.

On appeal, Schiro failed to show the state's delay in filing the charges was inexcusable. It would have been a waste of taxpayer money to prosecute him for the G.G. and L.S. rape cases while Schiro was in prison on a death sentence. Once his sentence was reduced, the prosecution opened the case and waited until they had both victims and a key witness before proceeding with the charges, wrote Judge James Kirsch.

"Schiro has failed to establish that the evidence is without conflict and leads inescapably to the conclusion that he is entitled to a dismissal. Consequently, we find no trial court error in its decision to deny Schiro's motion to dismiss on the basis of prosecutorial vindictiveness," he wrote.

In regards to the admission of Schiro's sexual autobiography, the Court of Appeals concluded the probative value of the statements wasn't substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, so there was no error in admitting portions of the text. The trial court also didn't err in admitting the photograph of L.S. with her disabled daughter because L.S. had already testified that her daughter was at home at the time of the attack and had cerebral palsy. Even if the state excluded the photograph, there was enough evidence from which the jury could reasonably infer Schiro's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge wrote.
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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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