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Text messages must be separately authenticated

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In a matter of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals determined text messages are subject to separate authentication before being admitted into evidence, much like the authentication process that data saved in a computer must undergo before being admitted.

In Darby L. Hape v. State of Indiana, No. 63A01-0804-CR-175, Darby Hape was convicted of felony possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, felony resisting law enforcement, and was found to be a habitual offender. After his convictions, he discovered that during deliberations, the jury was able to turn on one of his cell phones, which had been admitted into evidence, and see text messages, including one from "Brett." The text messages weren't introduced as evidence during the trial. Hape claimed that exposure required a correction of error and permission to poll the jury regarding the prejudicial impact of the text message on its deliberations. The trial court denied his motion.

The appellate court upheld the denial of Hape's motion to poll the jury because the text messages didn't constitute extraneous prejudicial information and he didn't meet his burden under Indiana Evidence Rule 606(b) in attempting to impeach the jury verdict with testimony about the messages, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

The text messages are intrinsic to the cell phone and the jury discovered the text messages by turning on the phone that was admitted into evidence. Turning on the phone didn't constitute an extrajudicial experiment that impermissibly exposed the jury to extraneous information, wrote Judge Vaidik.

The appellate court determined the Confrontation Clause doesn't bar the text messages from "Brett" on the phone because they are not testimonial, wrote the judge. There aren't any Indiana cases involving authentication of text messages generated and stored in cell phones, but the Court of Appeals ruled the text messages should be subject to the same authentication requirement of data saved in a computer before it can be admitted into evidence.

"Even though we have determined that a text message stored in a cellular telephone is intrinsic to the telephone, a proponent may offer the substance of the text message for an evidentiary purpose unique from the purpose served by the telephone itself. Rather, in such cases, the text message must be separately authenticated pursuant to Indiana Evidence Rule 901(a)," Judge Vaidik wrote.

Even though the jury saw the text messages without proper authentication, it didn't rise to the level of fundamental error because the jury's exposure was harmless. The evidence against Hape is strong and compelling without the text messages, she wrote.

The Court of Appeals affirmed Hape's convictions but reversed his adjudication as a habitual offender for lack of sufficient evidence and his corresponding 30-year sentence enhancement. The matter is remanded to the trial court to issue a new sentencing order not inconsistent with the opinion.

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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