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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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