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Clothing labels and security tags not considered hearsay evidence

May 2, 2013

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that clothing from the store H & M that bore the company name and security tags attached to the clothing could be admitted at a woman’s trial for theft from the store on Black Friday.

Loss-prevention officer Kyle Hadley saw Dekuita Steen take clothing from H & M, place them on top of an empty stroller, then stuff the clothing into bags under the stroller. He watched her leave the store without paying, which activated the store’s security system. Hadley brought Steen back into the store, but she denied stealing. He removed the clothing from the bags and recognized it as the same clothing he saw Steen place in the bags. When Hadley was called to the front of the store to help with another matter, Steen fled down a fire escape and was arrested by police four days later.

In Dekuita Steen v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1211-CR-877, Steen argued that the trial court erred in admitting Hadley’s testimony on the security tags and store labels into evidence at her trial because they are hearsay.

“While the security tags and store labels are not in evidence, we assume based on the parties’ briefs that the security tags and the store labels contained the writing ‘H & M,’” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote. “This writing, taken by itself, is not capable of being true or not true. Since it is not capable of being true or not true, the clothing labels could not have been admitted for the truth of the matter asserted. Rather, they were admitted as circumstantial evidence showing that because the tags were attached to the clothing, it made it more likely than not that the clothing belonged to H & M. Since the security tags and store labels inside the clothing were not out-of-court assertions admitted for the truth of the matter asserted, they did not constitute hearsay evidence.”

The judges held that Hadley simply testified about what he observed based on his personal knowledge of the matter, so his testimony was not hearsay. There is sufficient evidence to show Steen exerted unauthorized control over the clothes, which supports her Class D felony conviction.

 

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