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Panel criticizes late discovery introduction

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Even while recognizing that the state’s practice of allowing late introduction of evidence basically rewards attorneys who don’t prepare for trial, the Indiana Court of Appeals looked beyond that practice to how the rules still protect a person’s right to a fair trial.

In a unanimous ruling today, the state’s intermediate appellate court issued its decision in Richard Childress, Jr. v. State of Indiana, No. 45A03-0911-CR-520. The appeal stems from a Lake Superior case in which a jury convicted Childress of two class B felonies and robbery and criminal confinement. The sole issue in this appeal is whether the trial court erred in admitting evidence that the state didn’t disclose until the second day of trial.

At issue is how the prosecutor introduced a hooded sweatshirt, apparently worn at the time of the crime, into evidence for the first time on the second day of trial. At a bench conference, the trial court barred the state from including references to the sweatshirt in its case-in-chief but determined it could be admitted as evidence on rebuttal. Childress objected, but the court allowed the new evidence that ultimately resulted in his convictions.

The appellate panel made up of Judge Margret Robb, Patricia Riley, and Elaine Brown affirmed the convictions and determined the prosecutor’s late disclosure didn’t impair Childress’ right to a fair trial.

But most notably, the panel pointed out the nuances and intricacies in the litigation process allowing the kind of late disclosure that happened in this case.

The judges noted how the general discovery principles call for a court to strive for truth, fairness, and judicial efficiency, and that Indiana caselaw reinforces that a defendant must generally object at trial to the admission of discovery not timely disclosed. If that objection is overruled, then caselaw dictates the defendant should seek a continuance, and that continuance and evidentiary issue can be reviewed on appeal. State cases that have led to that holding are Berry v. State, 715 N.E. 2d 864, 866 (Ind. 1999) and Armstrong v. State, 499 N.E.2d 189, 191 (Ind. 1986).

“We agree with Childress’s implicit argument that this rule regrettably rewards attorneys who do not prepare by allowing admission of their untimely-produced discovery,” Judge Robb wrote for the majority. “Neither does this rule penalize the attorney who has failed to adequately investigate and prepare his or her own case or witnesses, preparation which would have led to an earlier detection of the evidence that should have been disclosed earlier. Nevertheless, we observe the wisdom of the rule as it contemplates and provides a remedy where the late disclosure has been intentional or impairs a defendant’s right to a fair trial. While the rule does not advance the practice of law toward promoting justice, it appears to allow sufficiently adequate protection of defendants’ rights to the extent courts genuinely consider whether late disclosure has impaired a defendant’s right to a fair trial. Further, we are not vested with the authority to amend this rule.”

In this case, the judges found that Childress could have requested a continuance or he could have more importantly adjusted his trial strategy going forward to counter the state’s late introduction of the sweatshirt. All of the “unfair circumstances” here could have been avoided, the panel found.

“Although we admonish the State for its failure to prepare its case to timely disclose the evidence, the late disclosure did not impair Childress’s right to a fair trial and we decline to reverse Childress’s convictions,” Judge Robb wrote.
 

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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