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COA: State could charge man for leaving scene of fatal accident

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a man’s conviction for failing to return to the scene of a fatal accident, finding the state wasn’t barred under collateral estoppel principles from prosecuting him for the same crime as another man who had already been convicted of causing the victim’s death.

Kevin Barton argued that because Steven Brinkley had already been convicted of Class C felony failure to return to the scene of an accident resulting in death, Barton couldn’t be prosecuted for the same crime. Brinkley initially hit Jamie Beaty, who was walking in the road, and didn’t stop. Moments later, Barton’s truck hit and dragged Beaty’s body.  Barton initially stopped, then got in his truck and called 911, providing only that someone had been hit by a car. Another bystander stopped and called 911, after which Barton ran from the scene back to his truck. He was later arrested.

The trial court denied his motion to dismiss the failure to return charge. At trial, Barton first brought up that he saw a white car hit Beaty. He claimed he had swerved to miss her in the road and pulled over to help, but evidence on his truck showed he struck the woman.

Indiana Code Section 9-26-1-1 requires a driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to stop, remain at the scene, and provide his or her name, address, and vehicle registration information. The appellate judges found that Barton’s arguments regarding his prosecution are misguided because the statute doesn’t require the charged driver cause the death or injury that occurred.

“The duties of Indiana Code section 9-26-1-1 apply to a driver of a vehicle involved in an accident, regardless of whether the driver’s vehicle struck anyone or anything,” wrote Judge James Kirsch in Kevin Barton v. State of Indiana, No. 18A04-0910-CR-609. “Thus, contrary to Barton’s assertion, the statute does not require a causal relationship with the death, only involvement in the accident.”

Barton also argued that the prosecutor’s four statements during closing arguments regarding Barton’s claim that he saw a white car hit Beaty were Doyle violations. Even though he brought his objection to the statements to the court’s attention, Barton didn’t request admonishment or a mistrial, so he waived his claim of error, wrote the judge.

The appellate court also affirmed the denial of a proposed jury instruction on the defense of mistake of fact. The trial court properly determined the substance of Barton’s proposed jury instruction was adequately covered by other instructions.

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