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COA affirms father’s convictions stemming from daughter’s injuries

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The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected a St. Joseph County man’s claims that the trial court abused its discretion regarding the admission and exclusion of certain evidence at his jury trial for charges related to injuries to his infant daughter.

In Valentin Escobedo v. State of Indiana, 71A03-1202-CR-60, Valentin Escobedo was charged with murder, Class A felony battery and Class D felony neglect of a dependent after his two-year-old daughter was admitted to the hospital with significant injuries that left her brain dead in December 2008. M.E. had a history of sustaining injuries while in the care of her father dating back to December 2006. She had been removed from her parents’ home on several occasions but returned to their care.

When harvesting M.E.’s organs for donation, doctors discovered other injuries to her organs, ribs and bones. The autopsy ruled her death a homicide.

The state wanted to introduce evidence of injuries M.E. sustained in 2007 as it had originally filed charges based on injuries sustained in 2008, but the trial court rejected the state’s motion to amend. That evidence could be admitted if Escobedo’s witnesses opened the door to it. The trial court also allowed a defense witness, Dr. Peter Stephens, to testify on a limited basis regarding the injuries M.E. sustained to her liver and pancreas.

Escobedo was convicted of the neglect and battery charges and sentenced to 53 years. On appeal, he argued the trial court abused its discretion by excluding Stephens’ testimony regarding his opinion that M.E. suffered from a metabolic bone disease.

“Given the factors in Vasquez (v. State, 868 N.E.2d 473, 476 (Ind. 2007)), and our review of the record before us and the specific facts of this case, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing Dr. Stephens to testify while limiting his testimony,” Judge Rudy Pyle III wrote. “Here, the trial court weighed the nature of Dr. Stephens’s proposed testimony – which was medical and technical in nature and included topics about which the medical community was in disagreement – with the timing of the filing of the notice – which did not allow the State sufficient time to refute that medical testimony by conducting additional medical testing or by obtaining additional experts to testify – along with the fact that any issue regarding M.E.’s bones had been known and available for a minimum of one and one-half years since (wife) Kristina’s trial.”

Escobedo also claimed that the admission of rebuttal testimony by the state regarding injuries M.E. suffered in 2007 was inadmissible 404(b) evidence. While he was testifying, Escobedo mentioned the injuries in relation to M.E.’s prior removal from the home and denied he was responsible for her injuries.

“Here, Escobedo’s testimony that he was ‘done wrong’ left the jury with a false impression that M.E. was wrongfully removed from his home by DCS. Thus, his testimony opened the door to the State’s introduction of evidence to rebut this false impression. Because Escobedo opened the door with his testimony, Evidence Rule 404(b) did not bar admission of evidence of relating to M.E.’s injuries in 2007 that led to her removal by DCS,” Pyle wrote.

The judges also found that Escobedo’s sentence, for which he received the maximum on both counts, is not inappropriate



 

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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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