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State not trying to circumvent adverse ruling in refiling charges

May 10, 2013

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a man’s felony cocaine dealing conviction, finding the state, when originally dismissing charges and then later refiling them, was not trying to avoid an adverse ruling that barred testimony of a confidential informant.

Dwight Cobbs was convicted of Class B felony dealing in cocaine following a controlled drug buy with a confidential informant in an Indianapolis Kroger supermarket. The state originally filed charges in court, at which the judge granted Cobbs’ motion to exclude the confidential informant’s testimony. The state later moved to dismiss the charges and refile because the police officer who stopped Cobbs after the controlled buy was out of state.

The refiled charges came before a different trial judge, who ruled that the informant’s testimony can be included at trial as well as audio/video recordings of the controlled buy.

Cobbs argued in Dwight L. Cobbs v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1207-CR-380, that Davenport v. State, 689 N.E.2d 1226 (Ind. 1997), and Johnson v. State, 740 N.E.2d 118 (Ind. 2001), should control and lead to excluding the informant’s testimony because the state was trying to avoid an adverse ruling.

But the appellate court deemed Cobbs’ case similar to Hollowell v. State, 773 N.E.2d 326 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002), in which the COA found the state wasn’t trying to circumvent an adverse ruling in dismissing and refiling charges because of a missing key witness.

“The record indicates that, despite the original trial court’s ruling regarding the testimony of the confidential informant, the State was proceeding with Cobbs’s trial. The State ultimately dismissed the charges because it was missing an essential witness on the day of trial and because the trial court apparently had a strict continuance policy,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote.

“We acknowledge that, after the State refiled the charges, it did seek a reconsideration of the exclusion of the confidential informant’s testimony, and the new trial court allowed that testimony. However, even if the trial court improperly reconsidered the exclusion of the confidential informant’s testimony, we conclude that any error was harmless,” Barnes continued, because other evidence at trial supports the conviction.

 

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