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COA overturns conviction, ruling statements about age not relevant for treatment

December 7, 2012

A Marion County man had his conviction overturned after the Indiana Court of Appeals found a social worker’s statements about his age were hearsay because they were not made specifically for a medical purpose.

Verdyer Clark was convicted of battery as a Class D felony pursuant to I.C. 35-42-2-1(a)(2)(B) which requires the state prove the battery resulted in bodily injury to a person less than 14-years-old and was committed by a person at least 18-years-old.

As evidence of Clark’s age, the state offered two documents prepared by a social worker who interviewed Deanna Drain, the mother of the injured infant. One document, “Preliminary Report of Alleged Child Abuse or Neglect,” listed Clark as “Other Person Responsible for Child(ren)” and showed his age as 23. The other document, “Social Work ED Assessment Plan Final Report,” noted the “Mother has a boyfriend of 9 months Verdyer Clark age 23.”

Clark appealed on the grounds the state did not prove its case because the only evidence it offered that he was over 18 at the time of the crime was inadmissible hearsay. The COA agreed in Verdyer Clark v. State of Indiana, 49A04-1202-CR-66. It reversed and remanded so the state could decide whether to retry Clark.

The state asserted the social worker’s statements were admissible under Evidence Rule 803(4) which excludes from the hearsay rule statements for the purposes of medical diagnosis and treatment.

However, the COA dismissed that argument, finding it was not apparent that the social worker made the statement about Clark’s age for the purpose of receiving medical diagnosis or treatment.

Citing State v. Velasquez, 944 N.E.2d 34, 40 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011), the court noted that in order for statements to be admissible under Evidence Rule 803(4), they need not be in furtherance of diagnosis and treatment. Rather, the statements must be relied on either to render a diagnosis or provide treatment.
 
Consequently, the court found the evidence of Clark’s age was not “reasonably pertinent” to the diagnosis or treatment of the infant victim. The information about Clark’s age had no apparent relevance to a diagnosis of the child’s injuries, so the social worker’s statements were not admissible under the Rule 803(4) hearsay exception.

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