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COA affirms belt considered a deadly weapon in domestic battery case

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The belt used by a man to repeatedly strike his girlfriend qualifies as a deadly weapon and supports elevating his battery conviction to a Class C felony, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Friday.

Dee Ward was convicted of the felony battery charge and Class A misdemeanor domestic battery for hitting his sometimes girlfriend J.M. with a leather belt from her waist to her ankles. The incident occurred at Ward’s home, and he dropped her off the next morning at her mother and stepfather’s home. When they saw the severe bruising and injuries to J.M.’s body, as well as how much pain she was in, they called 911.

Paramedic Linda Hodge-McKinney, who is trained in dealing with domestic violence cases, treated J.M. at her home and decided, based on the injuries and potential for internal injuries, J.M. needed to go to the hospital. At the hospital, forensic nurse Julie Morrison treated J.M. Both women asked J.M. in the course of treatment what had happened and J.M. told them Ward was responsible for the injuries.

When it came time for Ward’s trial, J.M. was considered a missing person. Because she was not around to give a deposition, the state asked for – and the trial court allowed – the medical personnel to testify as to what J.M. told her.

In Dee Ward v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1401-CR-25, Ward claimed that his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation was violated. But the admission of the victim’s statements to Hodge-McKinney and Morrison did not violate Ward’s confrontation rights because the statements were not testimonial. The medical personnel asked J.M. about her injuries and who caused them because they wanted to make sure that J.M. was safe and that her attacker was not present.

Ward also argued that the evidence is insufficient to prove that the belt used during the battery constituted a deadly weapon. But based on the definition of Class C felony battery, the belt qualifies because J.M. suffered welts and serious bruising from her waist to her ankles, as well as severe pain. J.M. was also at risk for internal injuries as a result of the beating.

“Given the serious nature of J.M.’s injuries and the severe pain suffered by J.M., we cannot say that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the trial court’s determination that the belt used during the commission of the battery qualified as a deadly weapon. Ward’s claim to the contrary amounts to nothing more than a request for this court to reweigh the evidence, which we will not do,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote.
 

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  1. 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?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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