ILNews

Stepson’s testimony, cell phone search invalidate stepdad’s drug conviction

Dave Stafford
September 24, 2012
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A man’s conviction on a drug dealing conspiracy charge was reversed Monday when an appeals court panel ruled that a Marion County court erred in admitting testimony and evidence about text messages from the defendant’s stepson.

In Gregory Kirk v. State of Indiana 49A02-1110-CR-979, the court found that the admission of 16-year-old stepson D.K.’s statements to an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer was harmless to three of Kirk’s convictions, but not to a conviction of conspiracy to commit dealing in a controlled substance.

In a jury trial, Kirk was convicted of conspiracy to commit dealing in cocaine as a Class B felony, conspiracy to commit dealing in a controlled substance as a Class B felony, neglect of a dependent as a Class C felony, and possession of marijuana as a Class A misdemeanor.

On appeal, Kirk argued that the court abused its discretion in admitting incriminating statements that D.K. made to police and in admitting evidence gathered during a warrantless search of Kirk’s cell phone.

The Indiana Court of Appeals found that D.K.’s statements to police constituted damaging hearsay, and that a warrantless police search of Kirk’s cell phone after he was arrested for neglect of a dependent and public intoxication went too far.

“There was no real law enforcement need to open the cell phone, press a button to access the inbox, and read six to eight text messages,” Judge James Kirsch wrote for the unanimous panel. “The state attempts to justify the search of the cell phone under the Indiana Constitution by stating that the search intruded only a small amount into Kirk’s ordinary activities and that law enforcement needs were great. On balance, we are not persuaded.”

The court found that police testimony connected to text messages they saw on Kirk’s phone was the only evidence that proved Kirk conspired to sell controlled substances.

“We therefore reverse Kirk’s conviction as to the count of conspiracy to commit dealing in a controlled substance and remand to the trial court so that his sentence may be changed accordingly,” Kirsch wrote.

Kirk unsuccessfully argued that a search warrant that turned up drugs in his home should not have been admitted. The appeals court found no error in allowing the search and resulting evidence.



 

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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