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Prosecutor’s ‘continual misconduct’ warrants new molestation trial

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A man’s child molesting convictions were vacated and he was granted a new trial by the Indiana Court of Appeals, which found prosecutorial misconduct amounting to fundamental error. It’s the second reversal and remand attributable to the same prosecutor, the court noted.

Brandon Brummett was 23 when he was convicted of molesting two cousins who were 16 and 12 years old at the time of the alleged incidents, some of which took place in West Virginia, where the girls’ father – Brummett’s uncle – was imprisoned. The girls’ mother encouraged them to spend time with relatives on their father’s side, the opinions states.

Brummett was arrested after one of the girls told a friend that he had molested her, and that friend and the girl told the girl’s mother.

In Brandon Brummett v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1304-CR-378, Judge John Baker wrote that a Marion County prosecutor was belligerent toward Brummett as he testified on the stand, that the prosecutor offered improper vouching and commentary on the justness of the cause, and that the proseuctor impugned the integrity of defense counsel and demeaned its role.

Brummett preserved none of the issues for appeal, but he succeeded in proving both prosecutorial misconduct and fundamental error, Baker wrote.

“The cumulative effect of this misconduct amounted to fundamental error, as it placed the defendant in grave peril and made a fair trial impossible. Consequently, the defendant is entitled to a new trial,” Baker wrote for the panel.

Reversing the conviction on those grounds, the panel waded into Brummett’s other objections regarding the evidence against him. He objected to the admission of evidence of uncharged acts and also asked the court to find the testimony of one of the girls incredibly dubious. She alleged he fondled her vagina as the family played a game at a table during a visit to West Virginia.

“While we agree with Brummett that (the) testimony might stretch the limits of credulity, this is not the test for incredible dubiosity. K.A.’s testimony does not run so counter to human experience that no reasonable person could believe it,” Baker wrote. “Therefore, this Court will not invade the province of the jury by reweighing the evidence. Thus, this argument must fail.”

While evidence of an uncharged act was improperly admitted, Baker wrote, it didn’t rise to fundamental error. In offering guidance for retrial, the court noted that because Brummett didn’t object contemporaneously to the admission of evidence regarding alleged uncharged out-of-state incidents, there was no fundamental error, though the evidence may have been improperly admitted.

“We note that the circumstances in this case in regard to prosecutorial misconduct are similar to those in Ryan v. State. 992 N.E.2d 776 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013), trans. granted. The prosecutor in this case also prosecuted the defendant in Ryan,” the panel observed in a footnote.

In that case, similar prosecutorial misconduct resulted in reversal and remand for new trial on Bruce Ryan’s convictions of two counts of Class C felony sexual misconduct with a minor. Justices granted transfer in that case last November, but the docket shows no further activity.


 
 

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  3. 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.

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  5. 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.

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