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Trial court should have booted the bloody shoe, but conviction stands

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The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with a convicted murderer that his bloody shoe should not have been admitted into evidence, but the judges did not overturn the conviction, ruling other substantial independent evidence supported the guilty verdict.

Douglas Guilmette appealed his conviction for murder, contending, in part, the trial court violated Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution when it admitted the DNA evidence found on his shoe.

As part of its investigation into the September 2010 death of Greg Piechocki, the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit interviewed Guilmette twice. During these sessions, along with telling detectives he did not like Piechocki, Guilmette admitted to taking deceased’s money and shoplifting from Walmart and Meijer.

Guilmette was subsequently arrested for the Walmart and Meijer thefts. In collecting Guilmette’s clothing and shoes, an officer saw what appeared to be spots of blood on the shoes.

Without a search warrant, Guilmette’s shoes and several other items were taken to the Indiana State Police Lab for blood and DNA analysis. A red stain on one of the shoelaces tested presumptively for blood and DNA testing indicated the stain was a mixture from Piechocki and Guilmette.

The COA, in Douglas A. Guilmette v. State of Indiana, 71A04-1205-CR-250, took no issue with the police taking Guilmette’s shoe at the time of his arrest. Nor did the court find any violation from the police looking at the shoe and discovering the red stains. 

However, the COA noted because Guilmette was initially arrested for the unrelated crimes of theft, not murder, the police should have obtained a warrant before doing the blood and DNA analysis of the shoe. The court then concluded the laboratory testing of his shoe for evidence of the murder was an unconstitutional search under the Indiana Constitution.

Still, the COA found the admission of the DNA evidence to be harmless because other substantial independent evidence of guilt was offered.  

Writing for court, Senior Judge Carr Darden explained, “The DNA evidence from the shoe was not the strongest evidence of guilt. It merely consisted of testimony that a small stain on Guilmette’s shoelace tested presumptively for blood and that subsequent DNA testing gave a mixture from which both Piechocki and Guilmette could not be excluded. Moreover, the testimony of four separate and independent witnesses that Guilmette admitted killing Piechocki with a baseball bat constituted overwhelming substantial independent evidence of guilt. Thus, the erroneous admission of the DNA evidence from the shoe was harmless.”

 

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  • Proof
    I don't care how many people, co conspirators, testify to hearsay for the purpose opf railroading a defendant, hearsay nor testimony are not proof. It seem that our courts have forgotten the meaning of proof beyond a reasonable doubt! Is it unreasonable to think that four independant witnesses could all be lying? Is it unreasonable to believe that the prosecutor hired these four witnesses? Wouldn't be the first time, do some research and you will be shocked out of your shoes!

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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