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Conviction overturned because of testimony about nickname

February 24, 2014

A man’s felony conviction was overturned after a split Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that the detective’s testimony about how he identified and found the man was inadmissible hearsay.

Shawn Blount was convicted of Class B felony possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon and sentenced to 12 years following a shooting at an Indianapolis motel.

Detectives were conducting surveillance of the scene at the time the gun was fired. In the mayhem afterwards, they located a mother and her young son who gave law enforcement the nickname of the shooter. From that information, the detectives were able to identify Blount.

Over the objections of the defense, the trial court allowed the detective to relay what the mother and son had told him. This gave Blount grounds for an appeal in which he argued the court abused is discretion by admitting hearsay evidence.

The state asserted the testimony was not hearsay because it was offered only to show how the detectives investigated the shooting and eventually identified Blount as the shooter.

“How the police narrowed the investigation to Blount was irrelevant to any contested issue in the case,” Senior Judge Carr Darden wrote in Shawn Blount v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1304-CR-365. “Moreover, the prejudicial impact of the testimony was great: in a jury trial to determine whether Blount unlawfully possessed a firearm, Detective Smith related out-of-court statements asserting that Blount possessed a firearm. Any probative value to the statements were thus substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. We therefore conclude that Detective Smith’s testimony was inadmissible hearsay and that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting it.”

The Court of Appeals reserved Blount’s conviction and remanded for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. Judge James Kirsch dissented without opinion.

 
 

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