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Rule inapplicable as witness’s credibility not attacked

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found a trial court didn’t err by not letting a defendant introduce evidence of his brother’s prior robbery because the defendant wasn’t attacking the brother’s credibility.

William R.D. Britt was charged with felony robbery following a robbery at a Fort Wayne store. One of the witnesses, Benjamin Busbee, initially thought one of the robbers may be Britt’s brother, Brandon, who the witness played high school sports with. Britt had dropped out of high school and didn’t play sports, whereas Brandon played many sports.

After seeing a photo array of a more recent photo of Britt, Busbee immediately identified Britt as the robber instead of Brandon. Britt wanted to call Brandon as a witness and question him regarding his prior robbery conviction. The state didn’t plan on impeaching Brandon’s testimony based on his prior conviction and argued Britt shouldn’t be allowed to mention the prior conviction on direct examination.

Britt’s attorney claimed Indiana Evidence Rule 609 contained mandatory language regarding impeachment by former convictions, so he shouldn’t be limited in his questioning of Brandon. Britt’s attorney also said they weren’t calling Brandon solely to impeach his credibility. The trial court declined to let Britt introduce the evidence of the previous robbery. Britt was convicted of Class B felony robbery, Class D felony criminal recklessness, and Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license.

The appellate court agreed with Britt that the language of Rule 609(a) is mandatory, but it is also expressly limited to when the evidence of the prior conviction is being offered to attack a witness’s credibility, wrote Judge Paul Mathias in William R.D. Britt v. State of Indiana, No. 02A03-1004-CR-253.

“Indeed, Britt used Brandon’s testimony to show that Britt did not play sports in high school, thus calling into question Busbee’s identification of the shorter robber as someone he had played sports with in high school,” wrote the judge. “He therefore had little to gain by attacking Brandon’s credibility.”

In addition, he even conceded on appeal he wasn’t attempting to attack Brandon’s credibility, so Evidence Rule 609(a) is inapplicable.

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  1. He did not have an "unlicensed handgun" in his pocket. Firearms are not licensed in Indiana. He apparently possessed a handgun without a license to carry, but it's not the handgun that is licensed (or registered).

  2. Once again, Indiana's legislature proves how friendly it is to monopolies. This latest bill by Hershman demonstrates the lengths Indiana's representatives are willing to go to put big business's (especially utilities') interests above those of everyday working people. Maassal argues that if the technology (solar) is so good, it will be able to compete on its own. Too bad he doesn't feel the same way about the industries he represents. Instead, he wants to cut the small credit consumers get for using solar in order to "add a 'level of certainty'" to his industry. I haven't heard of or seen such a blatant money-grab by an industry since the days when our federal, state, and local governments were run by the railroad. Senator Hershman's constituents should remember this bill the next time he runs for office, and they should penalize him accordingly.

  3. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  4. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  5. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

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