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COA: Admittance of juvenile’s statement harmless error

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The Indiana Court of Appeals was divided Thursday over whether a 12-year-old boy accused of child molesting and his mother were afforded the opportunity to have a meaningful consultation before speaking to police. The judges did agree that the boy’s adjudication should be affirmed.

The court record shows that J.L., who was 12 years old, asked 6-year-old F.R. on May 26, 2012, if he wanted “to have a gay party,” and F.R. said “no.” J.L. persisted, F.R. did not cooperate, and J.L. then touched F.R.’s penis by placing his hand over F.R.’s clothing and squeezing F.R.’s penis for “one minute.” J.L. asked F.R. if he liked it, and F.R. responded “no.” Later that night, F.R. attempted to wake his father to tell him what had occurred, but J.L. prevented him from doing so. F.R. told his mother when he returned to her house at the end of the weekend.

J.L. and his mother went to the police in January 2013 to discuss the incident with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police detective Robin Meyers. J.L.’s mother does not speak English, so an officer interpreted for her and she was provided the juvenile waiver form in Spanish. Meyers told J.L. and his mother they could have time to talk together if they wanted, but officers never left the room and never stopped recording the interview. J.L. and his mother eventually agreed to talk in which J.L. admitted to touching the boy’s penis.

F.R. also testified about the incident. J.L. was found to have committed what would be Class C felony child molesting if committed by an adult. He appealed, arguing the trial court abused its discretion in admitting his statement to police and that the evidence doesn’t sustain his adjudication.  

In J.L. v. State of Indiana, 49A04-1306-JV-297, Judges Elaine Brown and Margret Robb found J.L. and his mother did not knowingly and voluntarily waive their right to meaningful consultation, citing the evidence that police never left the room and the interview continued to be recorded. But that error was harmless, Brown wrote.

“[H]ere the evidence reveals that J.L. taught F.R. about ‘gay parties’ and asked F.R. if he enjoyed it when J.L. touched his penis. Such conduct supports the inference that J.L. intended to arouse or satisfy his sexual desires,” Brown wrote. “Under these circumstances, we conclude that the State presented evidence of a probative nature from which a reasonable trier of fact could find that J.L. committed an act that would constitute child molesting as a class C felony if committed by an adult.”

Judge Barnes concurred in result, believing that the meaningful opportunity to confer was extended, considered and knowingly and voluntarily waived as contemplated by I.C. 31-32-5-2.

 

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  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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