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COA: Admission of prior bad acts was a harmless error

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found that evidence of a defendant’s prior bad acts was not properly admitted at his trial for theft of gasoline, but affirmed his conviction because the admission was a harmless error.

Nathaniel Baker was convicted of Class D felony theft for stealing 45 gallons of gasoline belonging to David Stephan. He and two other men were with him when the gasoline was stolen. Baker argued when he was charged that he was with his fiancée at the time in question.

In appealing his conviction, Baker argued that the trial court improperly allowed testimony of cohort J.L. that this was not the first time the two had stolen gasoline. He claimed the evidence was introduced only to show he had a propensity to steal gas; the state claimed it was introduced to show Baker’s knowledge, identity and intent.

The COA concluded in Nathaniel Baker v. State of Indiana, 35A05-1210-CR-543, that evidence of Baker’s prior bad acts was not properly admitted under the knowledge, identity or intent exceptions of Evidence Rule 404(b). Baker did not place his intent or knowledge into issue and there’s no evidence this is a “signature” crime of Baker.

But the judges were convinced that there is no substantial likelihood that the questioned evidence contributed to Baker’s conviction in light of the testimony by his co-conspirators about their actions and the jury’s apparent determination that their testimony was more credible than Baker’s fiancée’s testimony, Judge Cale Bradford wrote. As such, the erroneous admission of the prior bad acts evidence was harmless.

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  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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