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COA: no error in admitting no contest plea

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A plea of no contest can be admitted under Indiana Evidence Rule 803(8) as a public record proving the fact of a conviction, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed today. The appellate court found no error in admitting a defendant's nolo contendere plea to a Florida murder as proof he was convicted of an offense qualifying him as a serious violent felon.

In Robert L. Scott v. State of Indiana, No. 79A05-0812-CR-746, Robert Scott appealed his convictions of possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, battery with a deadly weapon, pointing a firearm, and resisting law enforcement.

Scott was asked to leave a bar, but refused. A police officer called to the bar tried to stop Scott but Scott spun around and hit the officer in the chest. Scott had a gun in his hand, which looked like a derringer. He ran away, but officers went to his house that night for a "knock and talk." Scott stepped outside to talk to the officers and consented to a search of his house for other people. In a short search, officers moved a mattress they saw on the floor and found a loaded derringer. Scott also told officers about another gun under the couch. He was arrested on an active warrant from Florida and then advised of his rights.

Scott challenged the admission of his nolo contendere plea to a Florida murder to qualify him as a serious violent felon in Indiana. He argued the plea can't be admitted under Indiana Evidence Rule 803(22), which addresses no contest pleas; or Rule 803(8), a more general hearsay exception.

There aren't any Indiana cases addressing this, so the appellate court relied on cases from federal and other state courts to conclude Rule 803(22) is intended to prevent the no contest conviction from being used in a subsequent proceeding to prove actual guilt of the prior offense. The rule doesn't prevent admission under Rule 803(8). In addition, an exhibit shows Scott was adjudicated as guilty of second-degree murder by the Florida court, wrote Senior Judge John Sharpnack.

Scott challenged the search of his home and the admittance of the two guns into evidence. Scott's counsel didn't make a continuing objection to the admission of the derringer, an officer's testimony about the gun being loaded, or where the gun was found, so the issue was waived. The Court of Appeals determined even if he hadn't waived the issue, he still wouldn't have prevailed because he consented to the search.

The Court of Appeals did reverse the trial court denial of Scott's tendered jury instruction on the pointing a firearm charge. He argued the court should have informed the jury it could find him guilty of a misdemeanor if the gun he pointed at the officer was not loaded. Although it's unlikely the jury would have found the gun was not loaded, the officer's testimony that the gun malfunctioned when Scott pulled the trigger could support a reasonable inference to the contrary, wrote the judge.

The appellate court remanded on this issue for further proceedings.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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