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No error in admitting deposition testimony of witness

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found the trial court did not err in admitting the deposition testimony of a witness in a murder case who refused to testify at trial and whom the defendant had a chance to examine at the deposition.

Channing Gordon was in an apartment building when he saw Halston Thomas enter with a gun. Gordon ran into an apartment and heard multiple gunshots. Andre Drake died from his injuries. Gordon was called to testify but refused to do so. The trial court then granted the state’s request to read Gordon’s deposition testimony into evidence. Thomas was convicted of murder.

In Halston Thomas v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1109-CR-830, Thomas argued that this deprived him of his constitutional right to confront Gordon because he didn’t have an adequate opportunity to confront and cross-examine him. He claimed the deposition was discovery and not testimonial. The appellate judges cited Howard v. State, 853 N.E.2d 461 (Ind. 2006), in their decision to uphold the murder conviction.

Thomas claimed he didn’t have the ability to confront Gordon at his deposition because the scope of the defense counsel’s questioning of Gordon was strictly limited by Gordon’s counsel. His attorney clearly intended to not question Gordon in-depth at the time, but he did have the opportunity to do so, wrote Judge Ezra Friedlander.

The state established that Gordon was unavailable to testify at trial and that Thomas had an opportunity to cross-examine Gordon at the deposition, which was testimonial in nature, the judges ruled. Even if the judges were to assume that the requirements of Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 68 (2004), weren’t met, any error in admitting the deposition was harmless.

 

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