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Justices rule on cases using 3-step test seeking records

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The Indiana Supreme Court tackled the issue of requests for production of information to private third parties in two opinions Thursday – one dealing with records sought that fall under the victim-advocate privilege and the other dealing with unprotected information.

Crisis Connection, Inc. v. Ronald K. Fromme, No. 19S05-1012-CR-678, and Lamar M. Crawford v. State of Indiana, No., 49S05-1106-CR-370, both involved the three-step test used to determine the discoverability of information in criminal cases – particularity, relevance or materiality, and paramount interest.

In Crisis Connection, Ronald Fromme sought the counseling records from nonprofit Crisis Connection of two girls and their mother for use in his defense against child molesting charges. Crisis Connection argued those records are protected under the state’s victim-advocate privilege. The trial court ordered the records delivered to the court for an in camera review. On interlocutory appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed using the three-step test, holding that the privacy interest was important, but not strong enough to bar an in camera review of the records.

In Crawford, Lamar Crawford sought information recorded by Lucky Shift during the production of “The Shift,” a television show that followed Indianapolis Metropolitan Police homicide detectives. Crawford was accused of a murder that was the subject of a show that aired. The trial court ordered some information be disclosed for an in camera review, but denied three of Crawford’s requests because they weren’t particular enough. Using the three-step test, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed that those three requests weren’t sufficiently particular.

The justices found the COA erred in using the three-step test in Crisis Connection because the records Fromme sought are privileged information, and caselaw makes clear that the test only applies to discover nonprivileged information. The Indiana Legislature has expressly provided that the victim-advocate privilege applies in cases like this one to prohibit any disclosure, wrote Justice Frank Sullivan.

The high court went on to find that Fromme does not have a constitutional right to an in camera review of Crisis Connection’s records, frequently citing Pennsylvania v. Ritchie, 480 U.S. 39 (1987). Indiana courts do not extend Confrontation Clause rights to pretrial settings, so as long as the trial court does not improperly prevent Fromme from cross-examining the alleged victims at trial, his rights under the Confrontation Clause won’t be violated, wrote the justice.

The justices emphasized the importance of the promise of confidentiality between a provider and a patient. If patients knew their records could be subject to even an in camera review, confidential conversations would surely be chilled, wrote Justice Sullivan.

The Supreme Court reversed the trial court and remanded for further proceedings.

In Crawford, the three-step test does apply because the information Crawford seeks isn’t privileged. The justices focused on two requests denied by the trial court: Request #18 – Footage of any and all statements of officers, agents, or affiliates of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department or any reenactment thereof; and Request #19 – Footage of anyone interviewed or questioned, or any reenactment thereof, in connection with the investigation of the death of Gernell Jackson.

In each of the challenged requests, Crawford doesn’t state with reasonable particularity what footage or statements or interviews he seeks, he is just fishing for it, wrote Justice Sullivan. The justices couldn’t say that the trial court abused its discretion in quashing these discovery requests.
 

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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