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Exclusion of money talk not a reversible error

September 3, 2013

A trial court’s error in excluding explicit statements about money is not reversible and does not provide the grounds to overturn a drug conviction.

Marion Turner appealed his conviction for dealing in cocaine, as a Class A felony, arguing he was entrapped by a confidential informant working for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

When Turner testified at trial, he attempted to repeat statements allegedly made by the C.I., but the state objected on hearsay grounds. Turner countered that since the C.I. was acting as an agent of the state, his statements were admissible as statements of a party-opponent, an exception to the hearsay rule addressed by Indiana Evidence Rule 801(d)(2).

The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with Turner. It found the C.I. was acting on behalf of the state and that his statements could properly be considered non-hearsay pursuant to Evidence Rule 801.

The Court of Appeals then considered the consequences of the trial court’s error in sustaining the state’s hearsay objection.

Once the trial court ruled in favor of the state, Turner made an offer of proof that included the C.I. contacting him multiple times wanting cocaine. Turner initially refused but then the informant offered more money.

In Marion Turner v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1302-CR-59, the COA ruled that although the jury was not specifically advised that the C.I. had offered to increase the purchase price, they did hear Turner’s testimony that “the intensity was basically up the ante.”

From this, the COA found, the jury could have “reasonably interpreted” that the C.I. was offering more cash. In addition, Turner had stated his finances were deteriorating and there was no indication that the C.I. ever offered anything of a non-monetary nature to induce the transaction.

The Court of Appeals concluded that the exclusion of the C.I.’s specific statement offering more money was, at most, a harmless error.
 

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