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COA: woman not denied right to confrontation

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In a woman’s appeal of her prostitution conviction, the Indiana Court of Appeals addressed the right to confront witnesses and its interrelationship with hearsay evidence.

In Starlett Gilbert v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-1102-CR-77, Starlett Gilbert appealed her conviction of Class D felony prostitution. Two police officers – Shane Decker and Larry Wilkerson – were working undercover when Gilbert approached them in their car. She got in after the two said they were looking to party and she suggested they could drive to her place. When they got to Gilbert’s home, the officers arrested her for prostitution.

At trial, Decker testified that Gilbert had asked the two what they wanted to do and that Wilkerson responded that he wanted oral sex. Gilbert objected, arguing that was hearsay, but the testimony was allowed. Decker was briefly cross-examined by the defense and Wilkerson was never called to testify.

Gilbert claimed that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting Decker’s testimony regarding Wilkerson’s statements and her right to confrontation was violated. The state conceded that Decker’s testimony in question was hearsay and shouldn’t have been admitted, but argued that Gilbert never called Wilkerson as a witness. The appellate court found Decker’s testimony wasn’t hearsay, but was a statement introduced to show that Wilkerson wanted to receive oral sex and provide context for Gilbert’s response, which was to ask how much money they had, wrote Judge John Baker.

The Confrontation Clause doesn’t apply to non-hearsay statements, even if they are testimonial, and in this case, Gilbert was given the opportunity to cross-examine Decker, who was present the entire time Gilbert was with the undercover officers.

But, the judges emphasized their ruling should not be interpreted as approval for how the state presented its case.

“To be sure, the State had the opportunity to procure the testimony of Detective Wilkerson but declined to do so. While we affirm the trial court, we strongly caution the State against such haphazard work in the future,” wrote the judge.

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  1. Access to the court (judiciary branch of government) is the REAL problem, NOT necessarily lack of access to an attorney. Unfortunately, I've lived in a legal and financial hell for the past six years due to a divorce (where I was, supposedly, represented by an attorney) in which I was defrauded of settlement and the other party (and helpers) enriched through the fraud. When I attempted to introduce evidence and testify (pro se) in a foreclosure/eviction, I was silenced (apparently on procedural grounds, as research I've done since indicates). I was thrown out of a residence which was to be sold, by a judge who refused to allow me to speak in (the supposedly "informal") small claims court where the eviction proceeding (by ex-brother-in-law) was held. Six years and I can't even get back on solid or stable ground ... having bank account seized twice, unlawfully ... and now, for the past year, being dragged into court - again, contrary to law and appellate decisions - by former attorney, who is trying to force payment from exempt funds. Friday will mark fifth appearance. Hopefully, I'll be allowed to speak. The situation I find myself in shouldn't even be possible, much less dragging out with no end in sight, for years. I've done nothing wrong, but am watching a lot of wrong being accomplished under court jurisdiction; only because I was married to someone who wanted and was granted a divorce (but was not willing to assume the responsibilities that come with granting the divorce). In fact, the recalcitrant party was enriched by well over $100k, although it was necessarily split with other actors. Pro bono help? It's a nice dream ... but that's all it is, for too many. Meanwhile, injustice marches on.

  2. Both sites mentioned in the article appear to be nonfunctional to date (March 28, 2017). http://indianalegalanswers.org/ returns a message stating the "server is taking too long to respond" and http://www.abafreelegalasnswers.org/ "can't find the server". Although this does not surprise me, it is disheartening to know that access to the judicial branch of government remains out of reach for too many citizens (for procedural rather than meritorious reasons) of Indiana. Any updates regarding this story?

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