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Case shows challenge of ending res gestae

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a man's convictions and sentence for the 2007 murder and rape of a 14-year-old girl in Columbus, noting that the evidence the man objected to being admitted showed the challenges presented by eliminating the doctrine of res gestae.

In Demetrick D. Shepherd v. State of Indiana, No. 03A05-0712-CR-720, Demetrick Shepherd challenged his felony murder, felony rape, and felony burglary convictions and 90-year consecutive sentence for the murder of C.P. He raised two issues on appeal: whether the trial court committed reversible error by admitting evidence that he made advances toward C.P. and had taken a car without permission a week before the murder in violation of Ind. Evid. Rule 404(b); and that his sentence is inappropriate in light of his character and the nature of the offenses.

Shepherd believed the trial court erroneously admitted improper evidence of prior conduct and filed a motion in limine to prevent the state from introducing evidence that he had hit on C.P. the week before she was murdered and that same night he took without permission a car that belonged to Michelle Olvey, a family friend of C.P. and whose home C.P. was in when she was murdered. The trial court denied the motion.

"Assuming, without deciding, that the challenged evidence was erroneously admitted under Evidence Rule 404(b), the admission of the evidence of Shepherd's prior flirtations with the victim, no matter how vulgar, along with the evidence that Shepherd previously used Olvey's car without her permission, was clearly harmless beyond a reasonable doubt," wrote Judge James Kirsch.

In light of the conduct Shepherd admitted to, the evidence of his prior flirtation, and evidence he took Olvey's car had limited prejudicial effect.

In a footnote, the judge wrote that prior to the Indiana Supreme Court decision Swanson v. State, 666 N.E.2d 397 (1996), this evidence would have come in under the doctrine of res gestae. Now, it would only come in under the exception to Evid. R. 404(b).

"We believe that evidence such as this illustrates the challenges presented by the elimination of the doctrine of res gestae. In the present case, the story of these crimes could not be properly told without this evidence," he wrote.

The Court of Appeals affirmed Shepherd's sentence, finding the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors and that consecutive sentences weren't inappropriate. In a separate footnote, the appellate court wrote it didn't consider whether to increase Shepherd's sentence and that briefs in the matter were filed prior to the Feb. 10, 2009, Supreme Court decision McCullough v. State. The state didn't present an argument that Shepherd's sentence should be increased.

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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