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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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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

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