ILNews

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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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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