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Court of Appeals points to ‘alarming trend’ in defendant’s appeal

September 24, 2012

A defendant who attempted to have his conviction reversed by citing the fundamental error doctrine instead received a sharp rebuke from the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Carlos Hale appealed his conviction of robbery, a Class B felony, in Carlos Hale v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1202-CR-83. He argued the show-up identification was unduly suggestive and maintained the introduction of this evidence was a fundamental error.

A short time after a woman reported she had been robbed at gunpoint by two men outside her apartment, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers stopped a vehicle which contained Hale and three other men. Hale and Martell Stott matched the description provided by the victim.

Less than an hour after police stopped the vehicle, the victim was brought to the scene where she remained in the detective’s vehicle and viewed the four men, identifying Hale and Stott as the individuals who robbed her.

The victim subsequently identified Hale again during the trial without objection and the state presented evidence from the show-up identification. Hale was found guilty and sentenced to seven years.

The COA affirmed the trial court’s conviction. It found the lower court did not err by admitting the evidence of the show-up identification because the victim could clearly see Hale’s face during the robbery and she identified him soon after the incident.    

In addition, the court pointed out the defense counsel neither filed a pretrial motion to suppress the show-up identification nor did the defense counsel object to its admission at trial. An objection is required to preserve an error for review on appeal to give the trial court the opportunity to correct any errors before they become fundamental errors.

Writing for the majority, Judge John Baker highlighted the frequent misuse of the fundamental error doctrine.

“Nevertheless, this Court cannot ignore the alarming trend of questionable fundamental error claims,” Baker wrote. “For instance, it is not uncommon for a criminal defendant to argue on appeal that the introduction of evidence amounted to a fundamental error whenever the defendant failed to object to its admission at trial."




 

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