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High court addresses Protected Person Statute

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Addressing for the first time under the current Rules of Evidence a case regarding a protected person testifying at trial as well as by videotape or other statement, the Indiana Supreme Court held that if the statements are consistent and both are otherwise admissible, testimony of a protected person can't be presented both in open court and in a pre-recorded statement through the Protected Person Statute.

In Brian Tyler v. State of Indiana, No. 69S04-0801-CR-3, the Supreme Court exercised its supervisory power to hold that a party can't introduce testimony via the Protected Person Statute if the same person testifies in open court as to the same matters.

Brian Tyler was convicted of two counts of Class A felony child molesting, two counts of Class C felony child molesting, and one count of Class D felony vicarious sexual gratification. All five child victims testified at trial and videotaped interviews of three of the children were admitted into evidence. Tyler appealed, arguing error under Indiana Rule of Evidence 403 or fundamental error in the admission of the children's taped interviews.

The majority believed admitting consistent statements through both pre-recorded media and by live testimony presents two problems aside from confrontation clause or hearsay issues. Admitting the live testimony and consistent videotape statements is cumulative evidence and can be unfairly prejudicial, wrote Justice Theodore Boehm, and if a child or protected person is mature and reliable enough to testify in live court, then using the Protected Person Statute is unnecessary.

Justice Boehm wrote the rules implemented by use of supervisory powers aren't applicable to proceedings conducted prior to publication. The majority agreed that the court didn't commit reversible error by admitting the videotaped statements. Justice Sullivan concurred in result with this holding in a separate opinion and respectfully suggested the status quo is superior to what was adopted by the Supreme Court today.

Under Indiana Appellate Rule 7(B), the majority revised Tyler's sentence, finding his 110-year prison sentence to be inappropriate. Instead of attaching the habitual offender enhancement to Tyler's Class A felony child molesting convictions, the majority attached it to his Class D felony vicarious sexual gratification conviction, resulting in a maximum enhancement of 4 ½ years instead of 30 years. The majority also concluded the enhancement of the consecutive sentences imposed for the Class A child molesting convictions above the advisory level wasn't warranted and remanded for the trial court to issue an amended sentencing order in accordance with the opinion without a hearing, leaving Tyler with a 67 ½ year sentence.

Justice Dickson dissented as to revising Tyler's sentence, writing the trial judge's evaluation and determination of the appropriate sentence doesn't warrant appellate intrusion.

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