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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. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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