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Court: Nontestimonial statements allowed at trial

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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Statements to police made by a woman who accused a defendant of hitting her should have been admissible during the defendant's trial, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled April 25.

The appellate court determined statements made by Keyona Brooks, in which she said defendant Tracey Lamont Martin struck her in the face while they were fighting in the car before he drove off with her children, should have been considered nontestimonial, and thus admissible at trial.

Brooks was not available to testify at Martin's trial on a domestic battery charge and Martin moved to suppress her statements to police, arguing their admission would violate his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation. The trial court granted his motion to suppress, finding the statements were testimonial.

In State of Indiana v. Tracey Lamont Martin, No. 02A04-0704-CR-219, the Court of Appeals examined the statements Brooks made and applied the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Davis v. Washington, 547 U.S. 813 (2006), to determine if her statements made to police were nontestimonial or testimonial. Testimonial statements are not admissible at trial.

In the Davis test, statements are reviewed to see whether the declarant was describing events as they were actually happening or past events; whether the declarant was facing an ongoing emergency; whether the nature of what was asked and answered elicited statements that were necessary to resolve a present emergency as opposed to learning about past events; and the level of formality of the interview.

In the instant case, Brooks told police officers about past events - Martin struck her and drove away with her children in a car with a door still open - but that information was relevant to establish whether Martin still posed a present danger.

Brooks experienced an ongoing emergency because she did not know the whereabouts of her children while speaking to police. The police asked Brooks questions about Martin to resolve the ongoing emergency. The interview process was extremely informal as Brooks was sitting on the side of the road, bleeding and hysterical, as she answered questions, wrote Judge Terry Crone.

"In sum, we must conclude that the circumstances of the officers' interrogation of Brooks objectively indicate that its primary purpose was to assist police in resolving an ongoing emergency. Therefore, Brooks's statements to police were nontestimonial, and the trial court abused its discretion in excluding them," he wrote.

The appellate court reversed the trial court decision; however, because the state is barred from retrying Martin on the domestic battery charge because he was acquitted, the issue is moot in this case, Judge Crone wrote.
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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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