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COA: Admitted evidence of 20-year-old crimes requires reversal

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A civil judgment in favor of a woman who claimed her ex-husband battered her and forged her name on a quitclaim deed was vacated Friday. A Court of Appeals panel ruled that evidence of the ex-husband’s criminal convictions from the 1980s were prima facie error.

Terry L. Brown had been convicted of rape in 1984 and check deception in 1985. His ex-wife Tammy Brown sued in 2010, alleging he forged her name on a quitclaim deed to a property they owned jointly and alleging he battered her, rupturing a breast implant. Tammy Brown was awarded $80,000 in damages.

In Terry L. Brown v. Tammy S. Brown, 77A01-1204-PL-180, Judge Melissa May wrote that Indiana Evidence Rule 609 allows that evidence of convictions more than 10 years old may be admitted only if the court determines that the probative value of the conviction outweighs its prejudicial effect.

The rule “requires evidence of a past conviction only be used ‘[f]or the purpose of attacking the credibility of a witness.’ In the instant case, Tammy Brown used the evidence to demonstrate Terry Brown’s bad character and his propensity toward behavior similar to that which she was alleging as a basis for liability,” May wrote in a unanimous decision.

“The evidence was not used for the limited purpose permitted by Evid. R. 609(a), the admission of that evidence was more prejudicial than probative, which violates the exception provided in Evid. R. 609(b),” May wrote. “Accordingly, we reverse and remand.”
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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