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Man's convictions upheld despite court's use of inadmissible evidence

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found a trial judge abused his discretion in admitting portions of a defendant’s out-of-court taped police statements, but the appellate panel determined that error was harmless and not reason to reverse the man’s multiple rape and sexual conduct convictions.

Ruling on Imari C. Butler v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-1012-CR-775, the appellate court unanimously upheld a ruling by Marion Superior Judge Kurt Eisgruber.

The case involved a woman identified only as B.G., who in April 2009 went to an Indianapolis club with two friends and later ended up alone with a flat tire. She’d given her cell phone to a friend and forgot to get it before they left the club and went separate ways, so B.G. went to pick up her phone later that night. She ended up driving around lost after 2 a.m. before her car hit a pothole and got a flat tire, leading her to a gas station where Imari Butler offered to fix the flat. He then asked for a ride and tried to touch her underwear before B.G. refused and smacked his hand away. Butler became demanding and angry, punching B.G. in the face and ultimately forcing her to give him oral sex in the car. Afterward, she tried to drive away but he then threatened to kill her and had intercourse with B.G. against her will.

B.G. went home and her roommate took her to the hospital. The rape investigation led to police interviewing Butler as a suspect in B.G.’s rape. The police learned Butler was detained on another matter and took him in custody, recording the interview that led to the state’s charging him with several felonies that included rape, criminal deviate conduct, and criminal confinement.

At a two-day jury trial in November 2010, Butler was convicted and sentenced to a total 60-year executed sentence, with the trial judge ordering 56 of those years to be spent in prison and four years in community corrections.

On appeal, Butler argued that the trial judge shouldn’t have admitted portions of his taped police interview with the detective. He’d objected at trial and stated the evidence was inadmissible, but after a redaction hearing the court allowed as evidence those portions referencing prior crimes, the detective's assertions of fact, and the detective's opinions about Butler’s character and guilt.

The appellate court agreed some of those statements should have been redacted, and it cited the case of Smith v. State, 721 N.E.2d 213, 216 (Ind. 1999), that held out-of-courts statements by police offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted aren’t permitted at trial. That is the same issue in this case, and the appellate judges found this evidence shouldn’t have been allowed.

But relying on Wilkes v. State, 917 N.E. 2d 675, 686 (Ind. 2009), the appeals court held that even despite that error, enough evidence also existed to affirm the convictions and so in the broader picture that error was harmless and doesn’t require reversal. Physical and DNA evidence and testimony are sufficient. The judges also noted that Indiana law allows uncorroborated testimony of a sexual-assault crime victim to be sufficient in sustaining a conviction, which the Court of Appeals held in 2006.

“In light of these facts, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting portions of Butler’s taped interview, but we will not reverse Butler’s convictions because the error was harmless,” Judge Patria Riley wrote.



 

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  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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