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COA adopts 'compromise approach' of theory

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a man's conviction of child molesting, ruling he failed to prove the trial court erred by excluding certain evidence regarding his victim. The appellate court also examined the "sexual innocence inference theory" and adopted the compromise view of some courts when balancing a defendant's Sixth Amendment rights with the policy behind the Rape Shield Rule.

Arthur Oatts challenged his conviction of child molesting against his granddaughter in Arthur Oatts v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0805-CV-447. Oatts claimed the trial court abused its discretion by excluding evidence his granddaughter had previously seen an allegedly pornographic video and previously had been molested; and the court erred by responding to jury questions during deliberations after the jury indicated it arrived at a decision.

The Indiana Court of Appeals determined based on caselaw and a previous Indiana Supreme Court holding that under Indiana Evidence Rule 412, the state's Rape Shield Rule, the trial court didn't err by not allowing evidence Oatts' granddaughter had seen a pornographic tape and had been previously molested.

In order to determine whether Oatts' constitutional rights were violated because the exclusion of the evidence didn't allow him to cross examine a witness. The state's high court has held Indiana's Rape Shield Statute doesn't violate the Sixth Amendment right to confrontation absent a showing of actual impingement on cross examination. Oatts believed the excluded evidence was relevant to show his granddaughter had knowledge of the nature of sex acts and the investigative process, a theory the Court of Appeals referred to as the sexual innocence inference theory.

Courts across the country are split in their approach to the theory, but the Indiana appellate court adopted the compromise view courts in Arizona and Wisconsin have followed. The compromise view might grant the accused a right to introduce evidence of the victim's sexual contact with a third party if the conduct in question was not only unusual but strikingly similar to the alleged misconduct with the accused, wrote Judge Elaine Brown. This view places the burden on Oatts to show the prior sexual act happened and it was sufficiently similar to the present act to give his granddaughter knowledge to imagine the molestation charge. But Oatts failed to prove that, so the appellate court can't say his constitutional rights were violated, wrote the judge.

The Indiana Court of Appeals also found the trial court didn't abuse its discretion by responding to jury questions. The appellate court can't say the trial court's answer to the jury's question emphasized any particular instruction or that Oatts was prejudiced by the answer.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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