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Opinion examines use of sole eyewitness testimony

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The Indiana Court of Appeals delved into the issues surrounding the reliance on just one witness’s identification and testimony regarding the person who robbed her to convict the defendant.

In Anthony D. Gorman v. State of Indiana, No. 49A05-1110-CR-556, Anthony Gorman appealed his convictions of two counts of Class B felony robbery while armed with a deadly weapon. He was accused of robbing at gunpoint a couple while they sat in their car. The woman, Samantha Daniels, positively identified Gorman as the man who robbed them and testified that she was “100 percent” sure it was Gorman. Prosecutors didn’t recover the gun allegedly used in the crime.

Gorman argued that there should be some kind of evidence corroborating the identification by Daniels in order for there to be sufficient evidence to support his conviction. But Indiana Supreme Court precedent, Richardson v. State, 270 Ind. 566, 569, 388 N.E.2d 488, 491 (1979), holds that where a defendant’s conviction is based upon his identification as the perpetrator by a sole eyewitness, such identification is sufficient to sustain a conviction if the identification was unequivocal.

Under this precedent, Daniels’ in-court identification of Gorman as the robber was sufficient to support his convictions, the judges held. They also concluded that there is sufficient evidence to show he possessed a deadly weapon when he robbed the Danielses, finding that even though the couple’s testimony regarding the gun didn’t match, both said they saw Gorman with a gun.

The appellate court did explore other cases and studies on reliability issues that may arise with eyewitness identification, as well as instances of people being falsely convicted based on inaccurate eyewitness identifications. The court found it would be unwise to alter the rule stated in Richardson, thus allowing appellate courts to second-guess a fact-finder’s assessment of testimony.

“There would be potentially substantial criminal justice costs if a sole eyewitness’s identification of a defendant were not enough to sustain a conviction. Often times, despite the efforts of law enforcement, there simply is no other evidence to be found,” wrote Judge Michael Barnes.

 

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  • One more court failure!
    If a person can be convicted on the testimony of only one eyewitness, any person could have hundreds even thousands of innocent people sent to prison. Perhaps this is part of the reason an estimated10,0000 innocent people are convicted in the United States each year!

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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