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Court reverses felony convictions stemming from domestic incident

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The state didn’t provide sufficient evidence to support convictions of Class D felony strangulation and domestic battery, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Tuesday. The court did order the domestic battery conviction entered as a Class A misdemeanor.

Blanca Medrano took her infant child with her across the street from the apartment she shared with James Young and their two children. She was crying and had minor injuries, so firefighters asked her what was wrong. She told them that her husband had beaten her about 15 minutes ago and left with their other child. The firefighters called police, and an hour later, Elkhart City Police Corporal Laurie Stuff arrived. She interviewed Medrano, who at that point was no longer crying and seemed antsy to leave.

Stuff also saw bruising and redness on Medrano’s neck and saw the bandage put on her hand by the firefighters. Young arrived shortly after Stuff. Stuff spoke to him and Young said he and Medrano had gotten into a verbal argument. He was arrested and charged with Class D felony strangulation, based on what Medrano told Stuff; and Class D felony domestic battery, elevated from a misdemeanor because children were believed to be present.

Young was convicted of both counts. Medrano did not testify and could not be found for the trial, so the firefighters and Stuff testified regarding Medrano’s prior statements.

Young argues that even though Medrano’s statements to the firefighters were excited utterances, in this case, her statements violate his constitutional rights under the Sixth Amendment.

“…we hold that the primary purpose of the firefighters’ questioning of Medrano was to enable public, government assistance to Medrano in an ongoing emergency rather than to prove past events potentially relevant to future criminal prosecution. Therefore, the admission of Medrano’s statements to the firefighters did not violate Young’s confrontation rights under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote in James O. Young v. State of Indiana, 20A04-1112-CR-699.

The judges found that Medrano’s statements to Stuff were not an excited utterance as it had been nearly an hour before Stuff spoke to Medrano after the alleged battery, she was antsy to leave, and had stopped crying at some point. Stuff’s testimony that Medrano said Young had strangled her was the only evidence to support Young’s conviction. The judges reversed but found he could be subject to retrial on the charge.

There also isn’t sufficient evidence to show that the battery happened in front of the children, the judges found, so they ordered Young’s Class D felony domestic battery conviction reduced to a Class A misdemeanor.

 

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