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COA: Let a sex offender stipulate

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A convicted sex offender accused of failing to register will get a new trial, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

The unanimous three-judge panel in Darrick T. McClain v. State of Indiana, No. 02A03-0808-CR-428, reversed and remanded McClain's jury trial conviction for failing to register as a sex offender, finding the Allen Superior Court abused its discretion.

Convicted of sexual battery in 1999, McClain was required to register with police and he did that in March 2007, listing his sister's Fort Wayne home as his new address. His sister later saw her address listed on the online sex offender registry and informed police that McClain wasn't living there; he was eventually charged.

At trial, he offered to stipulate to his sex offender status and to the fact that he'd listed his sister's home address on his registration form. But the state didn't agree, and entered into evidence over McClain's objection the registration form that also included details about his prior sex offense.

But turning to U.S. Supreme Court precedent in Old Chief v. United States, 519 U.S. 172, 190 (1997), the appellate panel found that the lower court should not have admitted the form into evidence because it was prejudicial. Not admitting it at trial would not have interfered with the state's ability to prove that McClain was a sex offender required to register - as he'd offered to stipulate.

"Here, we also find the reasoning in Old Chief applies and hold that McClain's offer to stipulate that he is a sex offender precludes admission of the registration form at trial," the court wrote. "The prejudicial impact of the details of his sexual battery conviction is clear, and that evidence has no probative value in relation to the instant offense."

Since several witnesses testified at trial that McClain was residing with his sister when he filled out the form, the court determined it couldn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the probable impact of the prejudicial evidence didn't affect the jury and McClain's rights.

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