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Closed-circuit testimony not unconstitutional

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The Indiana Court of Appeals held that a man who repeatedly molested a young girl was not deprived of his right to cross-examine his accuser when she testified via closed-circuit television.

In Hane C. Harris v. State of Indiana, No. 18A04-1108-CR-391, Hane Harris was charged two counts of Class A felony child molesting, one count of Class C felony child molesting and Class D felony child solicitation stemming from his sexual abuse of his girlfriend’s daughter. The jury found him guilty, except for one count of Class A felony child molesting, and also found Harris to be a habitual offender.  

Harris shared an apartment with his girlfriend and her daughter, T.D.S, when the child was between ages 7 and 8. He molested T.D.S. repeatedly, threatening to kill her and her mother if she told anyone. T.D.S. told her grandmother about the abuse when she was 9 years old, and a subsequent physical examination revealed evidence of her allegations.

Harris was sentenced to 81 years, with 79 years executed. On appeal, he claimed he was denied his right to confrontation because T.D.S. was allowed to testify via closed-circuit television. He also contended that the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentences.

The appellate court held that based on the testimony of a psychiatrist and the child’s grandmother, the state was able to show that T.D.S. was a protected person who, if required to testify in-person, could suffer serious psychological trauma. Although she was not present in the courtroom, the defense was still able to cross-examine her via closed-circuit television.

Harris also argued that the court failed to articulate why it was imposing consecutive sentences. The COA held that a trial court need only find one aggravating factor to impose consecutive sentences, and Harris had seven aggravators, including 10 prior felony convictions and 10 misdemeanor convictions. While the appellate court affirmed the length of his sentence, it remanded to the trial court, holding that the habitual offender finding is an enhancement to his sentence, and not a separate offense, as the trial court recorded.

 

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