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COA answers first impression issue on custodial statements

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A defendant convicted of a burglary in St. Joseph County challenged the admission of his prior statement to police while in custody, arguing the statement couldn’t be allowed at his trial because a recorded version of the statement wasn’t available at trial as required by Indiana Evidence Rule 617.

New Evidence Rule 617 says in part: “In a felony criminal prosecution, evidence of a statement made by a person during a Custodial Interrogation in a Place of Detention shall not be admitted against the person unless an Electronic Recording of the statement was made, preserved, and is available at trial … .”

When Tyrell Cutler took the stand in his own defense, the prosecutor sought to confront him with the statement he gave to police denying knowing the victim, where she lived, and that he couldn’t explain how his DNA ended up in her home. Cutler’s attorney objected because he hadn’t received an electronic recording of the interview, only the written police report describing it. The prosecution only had the written report. Both thought there was no recording of the interview.

But it turns out the police did make a recording of the interview. That led the trial court to overrule Cutler’s objection because even a statement taken in violation of Miranda v. Arizona may be used against a testifying defendant, a principle recognized by the Indiana Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeals agreed in Tyrell Cutler v. State of Indiana, 71A05-1206-CR-339, with Senior Judge Randall T. Shepard noting that it appears there haven’t been any appellate decisions elsewhere in the country on this issue raised by Cutler.

“Had the State attempted to use Cutler’s statement from July as substantive evidence, Rule 617 would surely have required the prosecution to produce the recording before evidence of the statement could be admitted. Indeed, it seems that under the spirit of Rule 617, the defense would have been within its rights to insist on hearing the recording before the prosecutor could confront Cutler with his statements, even given the late moment at which counsel and the court became aware of its existence,” he wrote. “Still, it is difficult to see defense counsel’s failure to make such a request as constituting waiver.”

The judges also found there was sufficient evidence to convict Cutler of the burglary.

 

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  1. Indianapolis Bar Association President John Trimble and I are on the same page, but it is a very large page with plenty of room for others to join us. As my final Res Gestae article will express in more detail in a few days, the Great Recession hastened a fundamental and permanent sea change for the global legal service profession. Every state bar is facing the same existential questions that thrust the medical profession into national healthcare reform debates. The bench, bar, and law schools must comprehensively reconsider how we define the practice of law and what it means to access justice. If the three principals of the legal service profession do not recast the vision of their roles and responsibilities soon, the marketplace will dictate those roles and responsibilities without regard for the public interests that the legal profession professes to serve.

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