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Judges uphold molestation convictions

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a man's convictions of child molesting because it agreed the victim's recantation of the allegations weren't worthy of credit.

In Mario Martinez v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-0905-CR-289, Mario Martinez argued the trial court should have granted his motion to correct error and ordered a new trial after W.M., his 12-year-old victim and niece, recanted her story that Martinez molested her several years earlier.

W.M. first reported the molestation when she was 10 years old to facilitators of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's Body Safety Program. She later told the same story to a child forensic officer at IMPD and while on the stand at Martinez's trial. After he was convicted of one count of Class A felony child molesting and two counts of Class C felony child molesting, W.M., by private counsel, filed a motion to intervene and set aside the jury verdict. She gave a deposition to her attorney that Martinez hadn't molested her and she made it up because she was mad at him for hitting her a few years earlier. Neither the state nor Martinez's counsel were notified or present during the deposition.

As a result of the deposition, Martinez filed a motion to correct error because the recantation was newly discovered evidence that warranted a new trial. The trial court denied the motion, finding the recantation wasn't worthy of credit.

On appeal, Martinez argued the state is required to designate new evidence in the form of affidavits to counter W.M.'s recantation; the state had designated W.M.'s pretrial interview and pretrial deposition, which is sufficient to counter her post-trial version of events, wrote Chief Judge John Baker.

Just as in Best v. State, 418 N.E.2d 316, 319 (Ind. Ct. App. 1992), the trial court was correct to deny Martinez's motion for a new trial. W.M.'s recantation first occurred in a private deposition outside of the presence of anyone representing the state, wrote the chief judge. Her story was consistent until after her uncle was convicted and she overheard her parents say he could be sentenced to 50 years in prison. It was also possible W.M. recanted her story due to her mother's fears her marriage would fall apart because of the conviction and her mother was being ostracized in her community.

Under these circumstances, the appellate court can't say the trial court abused its discretion by finding W.M.'s recantation wasn't worthy of credit and denying Martinez's motion for a new trial.

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