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YouTube video prejudiced jury

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The use of a YouTube video during closing arguments as a demonstrative aid by the state warrants a reversal of a robbery conviction because it may have prejudiced the jury, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

In Terrence Miller v. State of Indiana, No. 09A02-0812-CR-1133, Terrence Miller appealed his conviction of Class B felony robbery and 18-year sentence to the Indiana Department of Correction. He claimed the trial court shouldn't have allowed the prosecutor to use a YouTube video created for school administrators to show how easily people could conceal weapons inside their clothing. The prosecutor noted before playing the video for the jury that it had nothing to do with the case.

Miller's defense was mistaken identity, and the fact whether the robber had a concealed weapon wasn't challenged at trial. The use of the video didn't meet the factors under Peterson v. State, 514 N.E.2d 265, 270 (Ind. 1987), the Court of Appeals determined.

Judges Melissa May and Paul Barnes concluded the use of the YouTube video was prejudicial to the jury and could have caused them to view Miller negatively. The majority reversed his conviction.

Chief Judge John Baker dissented, finding the error of using the video wasn't reversible. Because Miller's defense was mistaken identity, the YouTube video wasn't prejudicial to Miller.

"I cannot conclude that the video was so inflammatory that it would have altered the way in which the jury viewed Miller and the case as a whole, and given that the video was irrelevant to Miller's defense, I can only conclude that the trial court's decision to permit the State to show the video to the jury was harmless error," he wrote.

Based on Miller's other arguments for reversal, the chief judge found Miller wasn't entitled to relief on those grounds and would affirm the conviction.

Judge Barnes concurred with Judge May in a separate opinion, addressing Chief Judge Baker's stance, but he believed the video was "the proverbial evidentiary harpoon that skewed the ability of the jury to fairly and impartially decide the case."

"I am always reluctant to reverse jury verdicts, but I am never reluctant to attempt, as I view it, to ensure fairness. I do not think Miller got a fair shake here, and I vote with Judge May to reverse," he wrote.

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