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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. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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