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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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