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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. 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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