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Majority affirms conviction despite no witnesses

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An appellate judge dissented from the majority's decision to uphold a woman's conviction of operating a car after her driving privileges had been forfeited for life, finding that confirming her conviction would break from precedent.

In Cathy A. Crawley v. State of Indiana, No. 49A05-0905-CR-280, Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Riley believed the evidence of the case created a probability that Cathy Crawley was driving the car that crashed into an acquaintance's pool early in the morning, but that the probability is less than beyond a reasonable doubt. She based her dissent on previous rulings that dealt with the sufficiency of evidence to prove operation of a car, and found the majority's affirmation of Crawley's conviction goes against the precedent set by those cases.

Crawley was found by acquaintance Donald Jones in his backyard early in the morning in November 2008; she was soaking wet, wearing boxer shorts, a tank top, and no shoes. She was disoriented and asked if Jones had seen her car. After searching for a moment, she realized the car was partially in Jones' above ground pool. Crawley's purse, jacket, and cigarette butts were found by his hot tub. Jones believed she had been drinking and Crawley admitted to taking pills used to treat seizure disorders and panic attacks. No one had seen her drive the car into the pool, but she was alone when she was found.

Over Crawley's objections, Jones called the police. Crawley had borrowed the car from a friend weeks earlier and then refused to return it. She was convicted of Class C felony operating a motor vehicle after driving privileges are forfeited for life.

Judges Nancy Vaidik and Terry Crone affirmed the conviction because they believed when taken as a whole, the substantial circumstantial evidence supported the trial court's inference that Crawley operated the car, ultimately drove it into Jones' pool, and was found alone and impaired at the scene. She also frequently referred to the car as hers.

The majority rejected Crawley's arguments that she was too intoxicated at the time she made the statement about nobody being with her, so it wasn't reliable; that the trial court put substantial weight on the fact that water was found in her purse and that it must have come from the pool; and Crawley's challenges to the trial court's discrediting of her friend's testimony about when Crawley was at her house because her arguments would require the appellate court to reweigh the evidence.

"We find it to be of no moment that nobody observed Crawley operate the motor vehicle because the State presented sufficient circumstantial evidence from which the trier of fact could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Crawley operated the motor vehicle," wrote Judge Vaidik.

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  1. Based on several recent Indy Star articles, I would agree that being a case worker would be really hard. You would see the worst of humanity on a daily basis; and when things go wrong guess who gets blamed??!! Not biological parent!! Best of luck to those who entered that line of work.

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  4. Law school is social control the goal to produce a social product. As such it began after the Revolution and has nearly ruined us to this day: "“Scarcely any political question arises in the United States which is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question. Hence all parties are obliged to borrow, in their daily controversies, the ideas, and even the language, peculiar to judicial proceedings. As most public men [i.e., politicians] are, or have been, legal practitioners, they introduce the customs and technicalities of their profession into the management of public affairs. The jury extends this habitude to all classes. The language of the law thus becomes, in some measure, a vulgar tongue; the spirit of the law, which is produced in the schools and courts of justice, gradually penetrates beyond their walls into the bosom of society, where it descends to the lowest classes, so that at last the whole people contract the habits and the tastes of the judicial magistrate.” ? Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

  5. Attorney? Really? Or is it former attorney? Status with the Ind St Ct? Status with federal court, with SCOTUS? This is a legal newspaper, or should I look elsewhere?

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