ILNews

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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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