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COA: Admission of evidence of phone number did not affect verdict

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Because of overwhelming evidence placing the defendant at the scene of a shooting, the admission of additional evidence that before the shooting, a victim made calls to a phone number associated with the shooter did not affect the verdict, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Friday.

In Michael A. Lane v. State of Indiana, 82A05-1212-CR-640, Michael Lane appealed his convictions of murder, Class B felony conspiracy to commit dealing in a scheduled II controlled substance and two counts of Class C felony criminal recklessness. Lane was to bring money to a drug deal arranged by Jason Derrington for Michael Hooper. When Hooper, his cousin Frank Hurst, and Derrington showed up at the agreed location, Lane got into Hurst’s car with the money. During the transaction, Lane took off and started shooting at the men, killing Hooper and injuring the other two.

Lane appealed his convictions, arguing the trial court abused its discretion by rejecting his tendered jury instruction on reckless homicide as a lesser-included offense of murder and by admitting hearsay evidence after concluding Lane had opened the door to this previously excluded evidence.

The COA found that based on the specific facts of this case, a jury could not reasonably conclude that Lane acted recklessly but not knowingly when he fired the shot that killed Hooper, so an instruction on reckless homicide wasn’t warranted.

During the trial, evidence was admitted that Derrington called a number with a (678) area code four times on the night of the shooting, but that number was not initially linked to a particular person. But evidence linking Lane to that number was introduced through detective Brian Melton, who said that number belonged to Lane’s cousin Obie Davis, whom he had interviewed shortly after the shooting. The issue arose during cross-examination of Melton by defense counsel.

Lane claimed the trial court erroneously determined that he had opened the door to hearsay evidence linking him to the (678) phone number.  The appellate court found Davis’ statement to police regarding the number was testimonial, and the trial court erred in concluding Lane opened the door to the admission of the testimonial statement. A defendant can open the door to the admission of evidence otherwise barred by the Confrontation Clause, but that waiver must be “clear and intentional,” which was not the case here.

But this does not require reversal of Lane’s convictions.

“We are confident that the brief testimonial hearsay evidence admitted through Detective Melton was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Although the evidence regarding the phone number tended to establish some link between Lane and the crime, this link had already been shown by other overwhelming evidence establishing that Lane came to the scene to transact a drug deal that ended badly,” he wrote.

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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