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Victim's statements to nurse allowed, but judges reverse convictions

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The Indiana Court of Appeals concluded that a victim’s statements detailing her physical attack and identifying her attacker were admissible in court and were nontestimonial, so the defendant’s confrontation rights weren’t violated. However, the judges reversed the man’s convictions because the trial court shouldn’t have admitted prior misconduct evidence involving the defendant and the victim.

Dennis Perry challenged his convictions of strangulation, criminal mischief, and possession of cocaine stemming from an alleged attack on his ex-girlfriend, N.D. She told police and a forensic nurse that Perry had forced her to have sex in her rental car and when she tried to get away, he hit her car with a tire iron. The drug conviction came from police finding cocaine in the back of his truck after stopping him because the car matched the description of the suspect’s truck.

Before trial, N.D. died from a seizure disorder, but the forensic nurse and investigating officers did testify at trial. The nurse’s report was admitted into evidence over the defense’s hearsay objection. On cross-examination, the state elicited that Perry had been arrested and charged on five previous occasions with domestic disturbances involving N.D.

In Dennis Perry v. State of Indiana, No. 49A05-1012-CR-774, the appellate court held that the medical record completed by the forensic nurse and N.D.’s statements within that record did not constitute inadmissible hearsay. Indiana Evidence Rule 803(4) allows for the “medical diagnosis exception” to the hearsay rule, under which N.D.’s out-of-court statements fall. The records prepared by the forensic nurse fall under the “records of regularly conducted business activity” exception under Rule 803(6).

The judges then had to determine whether N.D.’s statements to the nurse were “testimonial” for the purpose of the Sixth Amendment – that is, what was the primary purpose of the nurse’s examination and N.D.’s statements? Citing State v. Stahl, 855 N.E.2d 834 (Ohio 2006), and other jurisdictions that reached similar conclusions as Stahl, the COA concluded that N.D.’s statements describing her physical attack and identifying Perry as her assailant were nontestimonial.

“At any rate, evaluating the encounter objectively and in light of all relevant factors, we still cannot say that the ‘primary purpose’ of the exam from either the patient’s or caretaker’s perspective was to prove past facts with an eye toward trial. To echo the Ohio Supreme Court, that function was at best secondary to the principal objective of providing and receiving medical attention,” wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

The judges also held that the medical record prepared by the nurse did not run afoul of Perry’s Sixth Amendment rights.

But they concluded that the trial court erred when it allowed for evidence of previous arrests and charges regarding domestic violence between Perry and N.D. to be admitted into evidence. The state claimed that Perry opened the door for the evidence in his testimony, but the appellate court disagreed. The state’s evidence only consisted of the arrests and charges, as Perry was never convicted on those charges, and no additional proof that he committed the prior acts at issue.

This error was not harmless, so Perry’s convictions should be reversed, but he may be retried, because the judges found retrial wouldn’t violate double jeopardy.

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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.

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  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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