ILNews

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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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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