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Judges affirm 911 recording properly admitted as evidence

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Ruling on the issue for the first time, the Court of Appeals held a 911 recording that involves statements by a caller that were relayed from a victim are admissible where the victim had personal knowledge of the underlying incident but the caller did not.

Trenton Teague briefly dated Chelsea Saylor; the relationship ended after Teague beat and injured Saylor. About a week after they broke up, Teague entered Saylor’s home in the middle of the night and began beating Saylor’s mother Staci Behnen with a crowbar or tire iron. She recognized the man as Teague. Saylor tried to break up the incident and Teague beat her. He stole the mother’s purse and fled.

Saylor ran next door and had neighbor Jan Bishop call 911. Bishop told the 911 operator statements Saylor made about her ex-boyfriend being the perpetrator and how her mom had been beaten. Behnen’s injuries required her transfer to an Indianapolis hospital trauma center.

After briefly fleeing to Florida, Teague was convicted as charged of Class A felonies burglary and robbery; Class B felonies burglary and aggravated battery; and Class C felonies battery. He was sentenced to 38 years on the Class A felony burglary charge and six years with four suspended on the Class B felony aggravated battery count. All other counts were merged into the felony burglary charge.

Teague argued that the 911 recording in which Bishop relayed Saylor’s statements should not have been admitted. The recording involves multiple hearsay, so it must fall within a hearsay exception to be admissible. The judges found Bishop’s statements to the operator qualify as excited utterance and cited other jurisdictions’ rulings in support that the 911 call is admissible.

“Here, Bishop did not have personal knowledge of the underlying incident Saylor described, but she did have personal knowledge of, and was responding to, the startling event or condition that came to her home in the middle of the night in the person of a bloodied Saylor screaming for help,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote in Trenton Teague v. State of Indiana, 89A01-1202-CR-86. “The 911 call confirms that Bishop was assiduous in relaying the operator’s questions to Saylor and Saylor’s answers in return."

The judges upheld Teague’s sentence, pointing out that the trial court found the crime against Behnen was “significantly more heinous, callous and reprehensible than what is called for by the statute.” The COA pointed out that Teague was ordered by a court not to have any contact with Saylor and he did, he did not pay child support as ordered, and fled the state to avoid prosecution.
 

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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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