Court: Nontestimonial statements allowed at trial

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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Statements to police made by a woman who accused a defendant of hitting her should have been admissible during the defendant's trial, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled April 25.

The appellate court determined statements made by Keyona Brooks, in which she said defendant Tracey Lamont Martin struck her in the face while they were fighting in the car before he drove off with her children, should have been considered nontestimonial, and thus admissible at trial.

Brooks was not available to testify at Martin's trial on a domestic battery charge and Martin moved to suppress her statements to police, arguing their admission would violate his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation. The trial court granted his motion to suppress, finding the statements were testimonial.

In State of Indiana v. Tracey Lamont Martin, No. 02A04-0704-CR-219, the Court of Appeals examined the statements Brooks made and applied the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Davis v. Washington, 547 U.S. 813 (2006), to determine if her statements made to police were nontestimonial or testimonial. Testimonial statements are not admissible at trial.

In the Davis test, statements are reviewed to see whether the declarant was describing events as they were actually happening or past events; whether the declarant was facing an ongoing emergency; whether the nature of what was asked and answered elicited statements that were necessary to resolve a present emergency as opposed to learning about past events; and the level of formality of the interview.

In the instant case, Brooks told police officers about past events - Martin struck her and drove away with her children in a car with a door still open - but that information was relevant to establish whether Martin still posed a present danger.

Brooks experienced an ongoing emergency because she did not know the whereabouts of her children while speaking to police. The police asked Brooks questions about Martin to resolve the ongoing emergency. The interview process was extremely informal as Brooks was sitting on the side of the road, bleeding and hysterical, as she answered questions, wrote Judge Terry Crone.

"In sum, we must conclude that the circumstances of the officers' interrogation of Brooks objectively indicate that its primary purpose was to assist police in resolving an ongoing emergency. Therefore, Brooks's statements to police were nontestimonial, and the trial court abused its discretion in excluding them," he wrote.

The appellate court reversed the trial court decision; however, because the state is barred from retrying Martin on the domestic battery charge because he was acquitted, the issue is moot in this case, Judge Crone wrote.

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  1. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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