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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 work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  2. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  3. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  4. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  5. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

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