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COA split over whether convicted murderer needs new trial

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The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a murder conviction Wednesday after the defendant argued his right to confront witnesses against him was violated. But one judge on the panel agreed with Michael Torres and wrote in his dissent that Torres should have a new trial.

Torres was convicted of carrying a handgun without a license and murder in connection to the shooting death of Darnall Lindsay outside an Indianapolis apartment in 2011. Dr. John Cavanaugh performed the autopsy on Lindsay, but when Torres’ trial was held in July 2013, Cavanaugh had left Marion County. Dr. Joye Carter, the chief forensic pathologist at the Marion County Coroner’s Office, was called by the state as an expert witness. Torres did not object to her testimony and Cavanaugh’s report was admitted into evidence.

Torres claimed the trial court violated his right to confrontation and committed fundamental error when it permitted Carter to testify about the results of the victim’s autopsy when she did not perform the autopsy.

“We do not find fundamental error in the admission of Dr. Carter’s testimony. Dr. Carter was asked whether she had an occasion to ‘look at and examine the autopsy of a Darnell Lindsay, autopsy #12-0024?’ But there is no reference to exactly what was included in that autopsy. Nor was any specific reference made to Dr. Cavanaugh’s report,” Judge Melissa May wrote for the majority in Michael Torres v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1308-CR-727. “When questioned about the number of times the victim had been shot, Dr. Carter referred to ‘the investigation’ and ‘the doctor’s report,’ but it is not apparent from her testimony to which documents she was referring. We therefore cannot conclude that the ‘investigation’ or ‘report’ to which she was referring was Dr. Cavanaugh’s report, or that her testimony otherwise invoked Torres’ right to confront a witness.

The majority, which included Judge L. Mark Bailey, also found any error in admitting Carter’s testimony regarding the number of gunshot wounds the victim sustained and Torres’ claim of self-defense was harmless.

Judge James Kirsch dissented, citing Bullcoming v. New Mexico, __ U.S. __, 131 S. Ct. 2705, 2710 (2011), in which the Supreme Court of the United States has held with respect to autopsy reports that the accused’s right is to be confronted with the analyst who makes the certification and that surrogate testimony does not satisfy the constitutional requirement. He does not believe any error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt and that there should be a new trial.

 

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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