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Supreme Court grants 2 transfers

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The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer Thursday to an ineffective assistance of trial counsel case and a case involving the testimony at trial of a previous victim of a defendant.

In John D. Farris v. State of Indiana, No. 02A03-0805-PC-245, John Farris claimed he received ineffective assistance from his trial counsel during his murder trial. Before his murder trial, he was found guilty of robbery and found to be a habitual offender. His robbery sentence was enhanced based on the habitual-offender status. His murder and aggravated battery sentence also was enhanced because he was again found to be a habitual offender.

The majority in the Indiana Court of Appeals' case ruled Farris hadn't show his trial counsel's failure to move to dismiss a second habitual-offender enhancement fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and affirmed the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The appellate panel questioned whether the holding in Seay v. State, 550 N.E.2d 1284, 1288 (Ind. 1990), which prohibited stacking habitual-offender enhancements, applied to the facts of Farris' case.

Judge Carr Darden dissented, believing if Farris' trial counsel had moved to dismiss the habitual-offender allegation filed with the murder and battery charges, Seay would have mandated the motion be granted.

In Otho L. Lafayette v. State of Indiana, No. 45A03-0803-CR-118, the Court of Appeals reversed Ortho Lafayette's convictions of rape, criminal confinement, and felony intimidation, as well as his repeat sexual-offender status after determining the trial court committed reversible error by admitting the testimony of a woman he previously attempted to rape in 1997. The appellate judges disagreed as to whether Lafayette put his intent at issue during trial by attempting to show his victim consented to sex with him. He was charged with raping C.E., a woman he met at a gas station; at trial, E.C., who Lafayette was convicted of attempting to rape years earlier, testified pursuant to Indiana Evidence Rule 404(b). The majority ruled E.C.'s testimony shouldn't have been admitted to show Lafayette's intent with C.E. They reversed and remanded for a new trial.

Judge Nancy Vaidik dissented because she believed Lafayette put his intent at issue during trial and the evidence of his previous attempted rape was relevant. She also believed E.C.'s testimony was admissible under Ind. Evid. Rule 402 because it revealed a nearly identical scenario in how Lafayette met both women and got them alone to attack them.

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