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Rule of lenity doesn’t apply on man’s escape conviction

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The rule of lenity doesn’t apply to the case of a Marion County man who tried to break into a home while serving home detention as a condition of probation, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded. The judges upheld Diano Gordon’s convictions of Class D felonies escape and attempted residential entry.

Around noon on Dec. 28, 2011, Jodi Pearce heard loud noises coming from her next-door neighbor’s home. She saw two men try to kick in the back door. She called 911, watched the men leave and ran outside to see what direction they headed. An hour later, Pearce rode with a police officer to Gordon’s home, where she identified the man standing outside as the shorter of the two men trying to break into the home.

Gordon had an electronic monitoring bracelet on his ankle as a condition of home detention at the time of the attempted break-in.

At the bench trial, Pearce testified that Gordon was one of the men she saw; Gordon didn’t object to Pearce’s identification testimony.

Because he failed to object at trial, Gordon argued on appeal that the fundamental error doctrine should prevent admittance of evidence regarding the show-up identification by Pearce on the day of the attempted break-in.

“Pearce observed Gordon for several minutes in the middle of the day at a fairly close distance. Furthermore, her attention was focused solely on Gordon and his companion for that length of time. And Pearce was absolutely certain that Gordon was the man kicking her neighbor’s door. Under these facts and circumstances, we cannot conclude that the show-up identification was unduly suggestive,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote in Diano L. Gordon v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1205-CR-242.

Even if the judges concluded the trial court erred by admitting evidence of the show-up identification, Gordon’s fundamental error argument would fail because Pearce watched him try to break into the neighbor’s home and saw him leave the scene, Mathias continued. Therefore, there was an independent basis for the in-court identification.

The COA rejected Gordon’s claim that the rule of lenity should apply to his escape conviction and be reduced to Class A misdemeanor unauthorized absence from home detention. But both statutes at issue here put the offender on notice that the conduct would result either in Class D felony escape or Class A misdemeanor unauthorized absence from home detention.

“It was within the prosecutor’s discretion to determine which charge was warranted by Gordon’s conduct,” Mathias wrote.

 

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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