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COA: Court erred in admitting probable cause affidavit

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A trial court should not have admitted a probable cause affidavit that contained multiple layers of hearsay at a probation revocation hearing, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded Wednesday.

David Robinson appealed the revocation of his probation. He was on probation for a battery conviction when he was arrested and charged following a domestic dispute with his girlfriend. The girlfriend told her story to Lawrence Police officer Brian Sharp, who then relayed it to Lawrence Police detective Thomas Zentz, who wrote up the probable cause affidavit.

The state filed notices of probation violations, one of which included the incident between Robinson and his girlfriend. At a bifurcated probation revocation hearing, the trial court allowed the probable cause affidavit by Zentz to be admitted over Robinson’s objections. Zentz, Sharp and Robinson’s girlfriend were never called to testify. The trial court found Robinson violated his probation because of the arrest, as well as not complying with counseling and drug testing requirements.

The appellate judges agreed with Robinson that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting the probable cause affidavit because it contained multiple layers of hearsay and was unreliable evidence. Even though the appeal is moot as Robinson has since served his home detention for the violation, the COA took the appeal because it is an issue that is likely to occur. The judges also noted none of their prior cases directly address the particular facts and circumstances found in this case.

In this case, Zentz stated facts as told by Latonia Green, Robinson’s girlfriend, to Sharp, who relayed them to Zentz. Zentz never observed injuries on Green or any other fact or circumstance of the alleged attack, wrote Judge Carr Darden. The trial court also never explained why Zentz’s affidavit, which is full of hearsay within hearsay within hearsay, was reliable. The trial court also incorrectly compared an arrest to a revocation of probation when deciding to allow the affidavit.

“The former involves temporary incarceration before a hearing where the defendant is afforded the full panoply of due process rights. The latter, however, involves potential long term incarceration based on hearsay. That hearsay should be substantially reliable,” wrote the judge in David Robinson v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1101-CR-13.

Based on the facts and circumstances in this case, the probable cause affidavit wasn’t substantially reliable. However, the state presented and the trial court found there were additional factors supporting the revocation of Robinson’s probation, so the COA affirmed.
 

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  3. This is happening so much. Even in 2016.2017. I hope the father sue for civil rights violation. I hope he sue as more are doing and even without a lawyer as pro-se, he got a good one here. God bless him.

  4. JLAP and other courtiers ... Those running court systems, have most substance abuse issues. Probably self medicating to cover conscience issues arising out of acts furthering govt corruption

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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