ILNews

COA says how to admit DNA testing analysis

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a defendant's convictions of child molesting and used the opinion to establish how documents explaining the underlying analysis of DNA testing may be admitted at a criminal trial.

In hearing the appeal of Richard Pendergrass v. State of Indiana, No. 71A03-0712-CR-588, the appellate court discovered after a thorough review of caselaw that there was no precedent in place to establish the admittance at a criminal trial of those documents. Richard Pendergrass appealed his child molesting convictions, arguing against the admittance of three exhibits.

A forensic biologist at the Indiana State Police Laboratory prepared Exhibit 1, a certificate of analysis; and Exhibit 2, the "profiles for paternity analysis" of Pendergras; his daughter, C.P.; and her aborted fetus, who was fathered by Pendergrass. Exhibit 3 was the paternity index a doctor prepared based on the information from first two exhibits.

Pendergrass claims those exhibits contain hearsay statements and that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation and cross-examination of the forensic biologist at trial because her supervisor testified in the forensic biologist's place.

The Court of Appeals examined the three exhibits, Indiana Evidence Rule 803(8)(a - d)'s exception to hearsay rules, and previous caselaw to determine that the exhibits in this case are admissible.

The appellate court used the three-step test that was developed in Ealy v. State, 685 N.E.2d 1047 (Ind. 1997), for determining the admissibility of hearsay under Evidence Rule 803(8) - Public Records and Reports.

The certificate of analysis was comprised of DNA samples from C.P., Pendergrass, and the aborted fetus, and included a recording of physical conditions as observed by the forensic biologist "akin to a simple recordation of numbers and therefore admissible under the Ealy test," wrote Judge Patricia Riley.

Exhibit 2 was also admissible under the Ealy test. Like Exhibit 1, this exhibit doesn't relate to a materially contested issue before the court but a numerical, uncontested compilation of data derived from the DNA analysis of the parties, wrote the judge.

The last exhibit from the state that Pendergrass objects to - the paternity index prepared by a doctor based on Exhibits 1 and 2 - is admissible because the first two exhibits were properly admitted as exceptions to the hearsay rule pursuant to Evidence Rule 803(8) and were admitted prior to the doctor taking the stand. In addition, the doctor testified that the only method of calculating paternity is by reliance and reference to Exhibits 1 and 2, which is a method universally used within the scientific community, wrote Judge Riley.

Finally, the appellate court determined that Pendergrass' Sixth Amendment right to confront and cross-examine the forensic biologist wasn't violated. The exhibits admitted at trial prepared by the forensic biologist weren't admitted to prove he molested his daughter but to provide context for the doctor's opinion, so the admission of those exhibits didn't implicate his right to confront the witnesses against him, she wrote.
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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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