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Judges disagree on proof-of-age issue

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Indiana Court of Appeals judges disagreed today about whether the state proved in its case a convicted child molester was 21 years old at the time the molestation occurred.

In Jamison C. Hudson v. State of Indiana, No. 82A04-0806-CR-355, Jamison Hudson appealed his convictions of Class A felony child molesting and Class C felony child molesting. Hudson was charged with three different specific acts of molesting his stepdaughter H.K. The trial court denied his motion in limine to exclude any evidence of sexual contact between the two for which he hadn't been charged.

In his appeal, Hudson challenged whether the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt he was at least 21 years old when he committed the child molesting, which is required to be convicted of Class A child molesting; and whether the court committed reversible error when it admitted evidence of his alleged other acts of child molesting for which he wasn't charged.

Citing Stanton v. State, 853 N.E.2d. 470, 474 (Ind. 2006), Judges Patricia Riley and Nancy Vaidik found the state failed to present sufficient evidence to sustain Hudson's conviction for Class A felony child molesting. The state failed to ask Hudson his birth date or ask specific questions of him as he testified to prove his age when he committed the crimes, wrote Judge Riley. The trial court relied on circumstantial evidence to convict him.

The facts in this case support a conviction for Class B felony child molesting, so the majority remanded to the trial court to enter his conviction as a Class B felony and sentence him accordingly.

Judge Carr Darden dissented in a separate opinion, writing the state could have avoided this current dilemma simply by asking Hudson's age when questioning him or his ex-wife. Judge Darden also wrote the court presumes a jury follows the instructions of the trial court, which would have told the jury that to convict Hudson of Class A felony child molesting, he would have to be at least 21 at the time of the act.

The judges unanimously affirmed the admission of H.K.'s testimony about a game she and Hudson would play that involved her touching his penis was a harmless error. Even though the trial court abused its discretion when it admitted evidence of Hudson's uncharged acts of child molesting, the court wrote the probable impact of the evidence on the jury in light of other evidence, was minor and harmless.

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