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Court error denying police deposition in drug case harmless, COA rules

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A Marion Superior Court should have allowed a defendant to play parts of a police officer’s deposition for impeachment purposes, but the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that failing to admit his inconsistent statement was harmless error.

A jury convicted Michael Gray of Class D felony possession of cocaine, and he was sentenced to four years in prison by Master Commissioner Shatrese M. Flowers. His sentence was enhanced by a habitual substance abuse offender plea.
 
In Michael Gray v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1205-CR-352, Gray’s appeal centers on the testimony of an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer regarding a traffic stop. Gray was a passenger in a car stopped for speeding, after which police determined the driver’s license was suspended, and a search of the vehicle revealed crack cocaine.

At trial, IMPD officer Christopher Morgan testified that Gray at first said he didn’t know what was going on but later said “no (the cocaine) is not hers.” Gray’s defense disputed the testimony and wanted to play an excerpt from a deposition at which Morgan said Gray had stated instead that he did not want to blame the driver.

The state objected when Gray’s defense began to play the tape, and Flowers declined to admit evidence from the taped deposition.

“Because there was an inconsistency in the officer’s testimony, Gray contends that he should have been allowed to impeach Officer Morgan with his deposition testimony. We agree,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the panel. “Gray should have been permitted to play the specific portion of the tape that contained the inconsistent deposition testimony and give the officer an opportunity to explain the inconsistency.”

“We find the error harmless, however. Officer Morgan ultimately admitted that his testimony may have been inconsistent, making Gray’s impeachment attempt complete — though jurors likely found this admission less persuasive than an audio recording of the officer’s inconsistent statement,” Vaidik wrote. “And the evidence adduced at trial strongly points to Gray’s guilt: when police officers stopped the car Gray was riding in, Gray made furtive movements and appeared nervous. Gray was sitting in the passenger seat, and the cocaine was found in the passenger doorframe. Accordingly, we find no reversible error here.”


 

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  1. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  2. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  3. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  4. I totally agree with John Smith.

  5. An idea that would harm the public good which is protected by licensing. Might as well abolish doctor and health care professions licensing too. Ridiculous. Unrealistic. Would open the floodgates of mischief and abuse. Even veteranarians are licensed. How has deregulation served the public good in banking, for example? Enough ideology already!

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