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Woman didn't prove she should get new trial

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Finding a defendant didn't meet her burden of proving her newly discovered evidence claim, the Indiana Court of Appeals today upheld the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief. The appellate court also ruled the court didn't err in excluding expert testimony during her post-conviction hearing.

In Alexa Whedon v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0808-PC-677, Alexa Whedon was convicted of murder under an accomplice liability theory; the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed her conviction and sentence on direct appeal.

In 2004, she filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging she had newly discovered evidence based on information from Michelle Griffin. Griffin testified that she was in jail on a forgery charge at the same time as Whedon and three other inmates who testified at Whedon's trial about what Whedon had told them regarding her connection to the murder.

Griffin claimed the women were lying and banded together on one story to benefit their own incarceration. The post-conviction court questioned Griffin's credibility and ruled her testimony was just mere impeachment evidence of the state's witnesses and doesn't meet the newly discovered evidence test.

The Court of Appeals found Whedon failed to prove three of the nine requirements of when new evidence mandates a new trial when it found Griffin's testimony was merely impeaching, not worthy of credit, and wouldn't probably produce different results at trial. The appellate court only addressed the credibility issue. The post-conviction court found Griffin to be vague in her answers and lacking credibility, so Whedon failed to show she's entitled to a new trial, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

The Court of Appeals examined the testimony of Whedon's expert witness, Rob Warden, who spoke about incentivized witnesses and wrongful convictions. Warden had conducted studies on wrongful convictions involving "snitches." The post-conviction court excluded his testimony on the grounds it violated Ind. Evid. Rules 702 and 704.

The subject of "incentivized testimony" isn't a scientific, technical, or other specialized area in which an expert must guide the trier of fact, wrote Judge Vaidik. Because his testimony fell within the trier of fact's common sense, it wasn't helpful and was properly excluded. In addition, his testimony implies the witnesses in this case didn't testify truthfully or were more likely than not to lie; Rule 704(b), she wrote, prohibits a witness from testifying about whether a witness has testified truthfully.

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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