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COA upholds domestic battery conviction

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A trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied a man accused of hitting his live-in girlfriend the opportunity to cross-examine her about a past domestic battery incident, the Court of Appeals concluded.

Matthew Manuel faced several domestic battery and battery charges stemming from an incident involving D.S., with whom he lived for eight years and had a child. He also helped raise her child from a previous relationship. When Manuel saw D.S. delete an email on her computer, and she refused to tell him what she deleted, he got angry and hit her on the forehead with a cell phone. They argued and he ended up throwing the laptop on the floor and hit her on the head with it twice before grabbing D.S. and choking her.

D.S. called 911 when Manuel left the home to take their daughter’s computer to his car.

Manuel was convicted of the four charges, which were all merged into his Class D felony domestic battery conviction.

He claimed on appeal the trial court should have allowed him to ask D.S. more about a domestic battery charge in 2005 that was dropped. The state objected because it didn’t know about the specifics of the incident; Manuel argued it was relevant because it related to D.S.’s credibility as a witness. The charges were dropped after D.S. talked to the state, and he wanted to know whether she filed a recantation admitting the abuse never happened. The appellate court concluded that evidence of D.S.’s recantation was precluded under Ind. Evid. R. 608(b).

Manuel also argued the state was improperly allowed to bolster the truthfulness of D.S.’s testimony. The state asked if D.S. had been truthful about what happened in the laptop incident, which came after the defense counsel elicited testimony from D.S. that attempted to impeach her credibility. She gave conflicting answers regarding when Manuel first hit her or whether he went outside during the incident.

“Because the impeachment related to truthfulness, we further conclude that questioning D.S. on re-direct regarding whether she had testified truthfully logically refuted the specific focus of Manuel’s attack,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote. “Thus, the State’s question was properly intended to rehabilitate its witness, rather than bolster her testimony, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the question.”

Finally, the Court of Appeals concluded that the state presented sufficient evidence to support Manuel’s conviction. Even though the two children were not in the same room at the time of the incident, they were present in their bedrooms and one child testified she could hear them arguing and it made her sad. The judges also rejected Manuel’s claim that D.S.’s testimony was incredibly dubious.

 

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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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