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Prosecutor’s ‘CSI’ remarks don’t reverse molestation conviction

November 27, 2013

A prosecutor’s comments to a prospective juror comparing the evidence needed for a conviction to that seen in a typical “CSI” television show weren’t fundamental error, a Court of Appeals panel ruled in affirming a man’s child-molestation conviction.

The panel affirmed conviction of two counts of Class A felony child molesting in Jason Deaton v. State of Indiana, 79A02-1303-CR-282.  Deaton appealed citing the “CSI” remarks and the prosecutor’s statement during closing that a victim’s testimony alone was sufficient for conviction.

Deaton pointed to a prosecutor’s questions during jury selection in which he asked how people perceived the popular crime procedural drama and the need for DNA or other evidence to support a conviction. Deaton said the questions were meant to reduce the state’s burden of proof.

Cited in the record are the prosecutor’s reference to the “CSI” shows and these remarks: “Does anyone -- would anyone need DNA evidence in a case like this? Would anyone need fingerprint evidence in a case like this? Is anyone going to hold me to a ‘CSI’ standard? Make me bring in all sorts of forensic evidence and fingerprints and DNA and do the light shows that they do on that show? Is anyone expecting that?”

Judge Melissa May wrote that because Denton had preserved neither prosecutorial misconduct claims for appeal, the alleged misconduct would have to rise to fundamental error, and it didn’t in either case. She noted the prosecutor in fact had correctly stated the law in closing.

“(T)his court and our Indiana Supreme Court have upheld child molesting convictions on the uncorroborated testimony of the victim on many occasions,” May wrote for the panel that included Judges Cale Bradford and James Kirsch, noting Deaton pointed to no caselaw stating otherwise.

“Deaton has not demonstrated fundamental error in the State’s comments during voir dire regarding the ‘CSI effect’ and the State’s comments during closing arguments regarding the evidence presented,” May wrote. “Further, the State presented sufficient evidence to convict Deaton of two counts of Class A felony child molesting. Accordingly, we affirm.”   
 

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