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COA: Hearsay evidence properly admitted

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the admission of hearsay evidence of a woman’s testimony to an officer that her boyfriend hit her because the evidence was admissible under the excited utterance exception.

In Donte L. Boatner v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-1002-CR-68, Donte Boatner challenged the trial court admittance of his girlfriend’s testimony to police as hearsay evidence and claimed that evidence violated his confrontation rights. His girlfriend, A.J., did not testify at his trial where he was convicted of Class A misdemeanor domestic battery.

A.J. ran toward Marion County Community Corrections Deputy Ross Earles as he was sitting in an unmarked car at a work-release center. A.J., who was not wearing any shoes and appeared disoriented and crying, told Earles she needed help and that Boatner had pushed her down and hit her on her face. She then told him where Boatner could be found.

Boatner objected to Earles’ testimony of A.J.’s statements to him being admitted at trial, which the trial court overruled. The testimony was properly admitted under the “excited utterance” exception in Indiana Evidence Rule 803(2). Even though the emergency situation had passed by the time A.J. approached Earles, A.J. was still clearly under the stress of the excitement caused by the battery when she spoke to the deputy.

The judges also rejected his argument that the admission of A.J.’s statement violated his right to confront witnesses under the Sixth Amendment. Because he didn’t object to Earles’ testimony based on Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 68 (2004), or the Sixth Amendment, his confrontation claim was waived on appeal.
 
Even if the issue had been properly preserved, it wouldn’t prevail because Crawford only applies to testimonial hearsay, wrote Judge Paul Mathias. Statements are nontestimonial when made in the course of police interrogation under circumstances objectively indicating that the primary purpose of the interrogation is to help police meet an ongoing emergency, he continued.

“Here, there is no indication that Deputy Earles’ primary purpose in speaking with A.J. was to establish or prove past events potentially relevant to later prosecution. To the contrary, Deputy Earles was sitting in his car when A.J. quickly approached him and, before he could even ask a question, told him that Boatner had pushed her down and hit her in the face,” he wrote.
 

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