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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. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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