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5th Amendment right against self-incrimination not violated

April 25, 2012

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that because a defendant’s attorney asked a detective whether the defendant admitted to molesting his girlfriend’s daughter, the defense opened the door to the prosecution to ask about the scope of the interview. The defendant claimed his Fifth Amendment rights were violated when the detective said the defendant asked to “stop speaking” during the interview.

John Ludack was in a relationship with T.E. for several years and watched her children while she worked. About two years after he began dating T.E., Ludack started to molest T.E.’s 10-year-old daughter, M.E. He molested her several times and threatened her not to tell anyone. Several years later, she told her older brother, who reported it to their father. T.E. then called police and Ludack was arrested and charged with two counts each of Class A felony child molesting and Class C felony child molesting.

He was convicted on the charges and found to be a habitual offender. The Class C felony charges were dismissed per the state’s request, and Ludack was sentenced to the maximum 130 years.

In John Ludack v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1109-CR-930, Ludack argued that his right against compulsory self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment was violated by Detective Chris Lawrence’s testimony at his trial. Lawrence interviewed Ludack after he was arrested. The defense first brought up whether Ludack made any admissions during the interview, and the detective said no. The trial court then allowed the prosecutor to further examine Lawrence to confirm Ludack neither admitted nor denied the charges. Lawrence then said, “He didn’t deny doing it either, he just asked to stop speaking.”
 
The appellate judges found the admission of the testimony didn’t rise to a fundamental error. Ludack’s attorney was the one who opened the door for the testimony.

“To open the door, the defendant’s evidence must use his or her pre-trial silence as probative of the defendant’s innocence and leave the trier of fact with a false or misleading impression,” wrote Judge Terry Crone.

The COA also upheld his sentence, noting Ludack was in a position of trust when he molested M.E., had a lengthy criminal history, and that the molestations appeared to stop only because he was arrested.

 

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