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Rule inapplicable as witness’s credibility not attacked

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found a trial court didn’t err by not letting a defendant introduce evidence of his brother’s prior robbery because the defendant wasn’t attacking the brother’s credibility.

William R.D. Britt was charged with felony robbery following a robbery at a Fort Wayne store. One of the witnesses, Benjamin Busbee, initially thought one of the robbers may be Britt’s brother, Brandon, who the witness played high school sports with. Britt had dropped out of high school and didn’t play sports, whereas Brandon played many sports.

After seeing a photo array of a more recent photo of Britt, Busbee immediately identified Britt as the robber instead of Brandon. Britt wanted to call Brandon as a witness and question him regarding his prior robbery conviction. The state didn’t plan on impeaching Brandon’s testimony based on his prior conviction and argued Britt shouldn’t be allowed to mention the prior conviction on direct examination.

Britt’s attorney claimed Indiana Evidence Rule 609 contained mandatory language regarding impeachment by former convictions, so he shouldn’t be limited in his questioning of Brandon. Britt’s attorney also said they weren’t calling Brandon solely to impeach his credibility. The trial court declined to let Britt introduce the evidence of the previous robbery. Britt was convicted of Class B felony robbery, Class D felony criminal recklessness, and Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license.

The appellate court agreed with Britt that the language of Rule 609(a) is mandatory, but it is also expressly limited to when the evidence of the prior conviction is being offered to attack a witness’s credibility, wrote Judge Paul Mathias in William R.D. Britt v. State of Indiana, No. 02A03-1004-CR-253.

“Indeed, Britt used Brandon’s testimony to show that Britt did not play sports in high school, thus calling into question Busbee’s identification of the shorter robber as someone he had played sports with in high school,” wrote the judge. “He therefore had little to gain by attacking Brandon’s credibility.”

In addition, he even conceded on appeal he wasn’t attempting to attack Brandon’s credibility, so Evidence Rule 609(a) is inapplicable.

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  1. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

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  3. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

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