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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. For many years this young man was "family" being my cousin's son. Then he decided to ignore my existence and that of my daughter who was very hurt by his actions after growing up admiring, Jason. Glad he is doing well, as for his opinion, if you care so much you wouldn't ignore the feelings of those who cared so much about you for years, Jason.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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