ILNews

High court adopts 'substantial trustworthiness' test

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Supreme Court has adopted a "substantial trustworthiness" test to determine the reliability of hearsay evidence in probation revocation hearings.

A 5-0 decision came today in George Reyes v. State of Indiana, 01S02-0612-CR-495, which comes from Adams Circuit Court and involves a man once convicted and imprisoned for aggravated battery. Reyes began probation in 2000 after his release from prison, but in February 2005 his probation officer filed a violation petition because Reyes tested positive for marijuana. An agreement with the state meant that he wouldn't have to serve the entire suspended sentence if no new drugs appeared during a second test. During a hearing, the trial court allowed affidavits to be entered showing Reyes had used cocaine before the collection despite Reyes' counsel objections to that as hearsay.

The Court of Appeals rejected Reyes' argument that the evidence admitted violated his due process rights to confront a witness, and the state asked the justices to clarify a standard for which a trial court should judge the admission of evidence challenged by a probationer on confrontation grounds.

Prior to this decision, courts had used two principal methods for determining this admissibility: the "substantial trustworthiness test" and a "balancing test" weighing the probationer's interest in confronting the declarant against the State's interest in not producing the same.

Court of Appeals judges applied a balancing test in this case, though the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has used the "substantial trustworthiness" test, Justice Sullivan wrote. He wrote the latter incorporates good cause into its calculus and is the more effective means.

"The substantial trustworthiness test also provides a clearer standard," he wrote. "A balancing test in which a trial court weights the probationer's interest in confrontation against the State's good cause for not producing a witness is too unwieldy a method for everyday use in a proceeding as common as a probation revocation hearing. ..."

In the end, justices affirmed the holding of the Court of Appeals that the affidavits were properly admitted but held that the trial court should have applied a test of "substantial trustworthiness."
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  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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