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Man not prejudiced when prosecutor read illiterate witness' statement before jury

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Although it would have been better for the trial court to excuse the jury before reading an illiterate witness’s prior statement to him to refresh his memory, any error attributable to its use is harmless, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

Dontevius Hutcherson was charged with murder, murder in the perpetration of a robbery, Class A felony attempted murder, Class A felony robbery, Class B felony aggravated battery and Class C felony battery for shooting at two men. Police took a statement from Victor Lee, who said that Hutcherson told him he had shot and robbed two men. At trial, Lee was able to authenticate his signature on the statement to police and remembered talking to police, but said he couldn’t remember what Hutcherson had told him.

Because Lee is illiterate, the trial court allowed the prosecutor to read the statement aloud to Lee in front of the jury. Lee then said he remembered “half of it but not all.” Hutcherson was found guilty as charged, but the trial court only entered judgment on the murder, attempted murder and robbery charges.

In Dontevius Hutcherson v. State of Indiana, No. 45A03-1109-CR-420, Hutcherson argued that allowing the prosecutor to read Lee’s prior statement aloud in front of the jury to refresh Lee’s memory violated his constitutional right of confrontation. Hutcherson’s attorney had raised a continuing objection to any line of questioning from Lee, but the trial court denied it, stating it would take one question at a time. When the state read the statement aloud, Hutcherson did not object so he waived this issue for appeal, wrote Judge Terry Crone. There was also no fundamental error on this issue.

Regarding the prosecutor reading aloud Lee’s statement before the jury, the COA noted that the court should have excused the jury before the actual reading of the statement to avoid potential prejudice. But Lee’s prior statement is cumulative and corroborated other witnesses’ testimony, so any error attributable to its use is harmless, wrote the judge.

 

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  1. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  2. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  3. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  4. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

  5. No, Ron Drake is not running against incumbent Larry Bucshon. That’s totally wrong; and destructively misleading to say anything like that. All political candidates, including me in the 8th district, are facing voters, not incumbents. You should not firewall away any of voters’ options. We need them all now more than ever. Right? Y’all have for decades given the Ds and Rs free 24/7/365 coverage of taxpayer-supported promotion at the expense of all alternatives. That’s plenty of head-start, money-in-the-pocket advantage for parties and people that don’t need any more free immunities, powers, privileges and money denied all others. Now it’s time to play fair and let voters know that there are, in fact, options. Much, much better, and not-corrupt options. Liberty or Bust! Andy Horning Libertarian for IN08 USA House of Representatives Freedom, Indiana

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