ILNews

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

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.”


 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  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.

ADVERTISEMENT