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Prosecutor’s ‘continual misconduct’ warrants new molestation trial

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A man’s child molesting convictions were vacated and he was granted a new trial by the Indiana Court of Appeals, which found prosecutorial misconduct amounting to fundamental error. It’s the second reversal and remand attributable to the same prosecutor, the court noted.

Brandon Brummett was 23 when he was convicted of molesting two cousins who were 16 and 12 years old at the time of the alleged incidents, some of which took place in West Virginia, where the girls’ father – Brummett’s uncle – was imprisoned. The girls’ mother encouraged them to spend time with relatives on their father’s side, the opinions states.

Brummett was arrested after one of the girls told a friend that he had molested her, and that friend and the girl told the girl’s mother.

In Brandon Brummett v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1304-CR-378, Judge John Baker wrote that a Marion County prosecutor was belligerent toward Brummett as he testified on the stand, that the prosecutor offered improper vouching and commentary on the justness of the cause, and that the proseuctor impugned the integrity of defense counsel and demeaned its role.

Brummett preserved none of the issues for appeal, but he succeeded in proving both prosecutorial misconduct and fundamental error, Baker wrote.

“The cumulative effect of this misconduct amounted to fundamental error, as it placed the defendant in grave peril and made a fair trial impossible. Consequently, the defendant is entitled to a new trial,” Baker wrote for the panel.

Reversing the conviction on those grounds, the panel waded into Brummett’s other objections regarding the evidence against him. He objected to the admission of evidence of uncharged acts and also asked the court to find the testimony of one of the girls incredibly dubious. She alleged he fondled her vagina as the family played a game at a table during a visit to West Virginia.

“While we agree with Brummett that (the) testimony might stretch the limits of credulity, this is not the test for incredible dubiosity. K.A.’s testimony does not run so counter to human experience that no reasonable person could believe it,” Baker wrote. “Therefore, this Court will not invade the province of the jury by reweighing the evidence. Thus, this argument must fail.”

While evidence of an uncharged act was improperly admitted, Baker wrote, it didn’t rise to fundamental error. In offering guidance for retrial, the court noted that because Brummett didn’t object contemporaneously to the admission of evidence regarding alleged uncharged out-of-state incidents, there was no fundamental error, though the evidence may have been improperly admitted.

“We note that the circumstances in this case in regard to prosecutorial misconduct are similar to those in Ryan v. State. 992 N.E.2d 776 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013), trans. granted. The prosecutor in this case also prosecuted the defendant in Ryan,” the panel observed in a footnote.

In that case, similar prosecutorial misconduct resulted in reversal and remand for new trial on Bruce Ryan’s convictions of two counts of Class C felony sexual misconduct with a minor. Justices granted transfer in that case last November, but the docket shows no further activity.


 
 

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  1. 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

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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