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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. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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