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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. 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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