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Appeals court sides with murder defendant in hearsay appeal

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Citing hearsay rules, the Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a trial court’s finding that the state may not introduce into evidence statements that could implicate a man who is facing murder charges.

In  State of Indiana v. Alfonso M. Chavez, No. 45A03-1012-CR-619, the state argued that statements by two co-defendants that implicate Alfonso Chavez should be admitted because neither the Sixth Amendment nor the Indiana Rules of Evidence require exclusion of the evidence. The appeals court disagreed with the state regarding the Rules of Evidence and therefore declined to consider the constitutional relevance of the appeal.

Chavez is charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of Jason Janek and Kevin Abulhusn, who were fatally shot in 2004. The killings were unsolved until 2010, when two men – David Redmon and Hugh Struss – made statements implicating Chavez and others involved.

According to Redmon, a former co-worker of Alfonso’s brother Mark Chavez, Mark said that Alfonso had shot at least one of the men, and he said he helped Alfonso dispose of the bodies. The state argues that the trial court erred by excluding the statement Mark made to Redmon, and that Mark’s statements should be admissible because he is a party-opponent. The appeals court held that because the state has not alleged that Mark is a co-conspirator, his statements are not of a party-opponent and are therefore inadmissible as hearsay.  

Hugh Struss said that Eric Valdivia told him that Alfonso shot and killed Janek and Abulhusn in the basement of the bar Valdivia owned. The state argued that Valdivia’s statements are admissible because they were an “excited utterance.” But the appeals court held that no indication existed about how much time had passed between the deaths and Valdivia’s statements. Citing Boatner v. State, 934 N.E.2d 184, 186 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010), 934 N.E.2d at 186, the appeals court held that the admission of an excited utterance turns on whether the statement was inherently reliable because the witness was under the stress of a startling event and therefore unlikely to make deliberate falsifications.

The appeals court affirmed the trial court, holding that the state had not shown that trial court abused its discretion by excluding Mark Chavez’s and Valdivia’s statements.

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  • Excitable utterance? ha ha ha
    very very unprofessional for the state of Indiana to think an excited utterance would be valid what they should have gone with is a personal sense impression idiots. Hearsay within Hearsay is inadmissible in Indiana, always has been how many would get arrested if groups of ppl who shared a common hatred for another would make up fallacies?

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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