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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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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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