Citing hearsay rules, the Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a trial court’s finding that the state may not introduce into evidence statements that could implicate a man who is facing murder charges.
In State of Indiana v. Alfonso M. Chavez, No. 45A03-1012-CR-619, the state argued that statements by two co-defendants that implicate Alfonso Chavez should be admitted because neither the Sixth Amendment nor the Indiana Rules of Evidence require exclusion of the evidence. The appeals court disagreed with the state regarding the Rules of Evidence and therefore declined to consider the constitutional relevance of the appeal.
Chavez is charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of Jason Janek and Kevin Abulhusn, who were fatally shot in 2004. The killings were unsolved until 2010, when two men – David Redmon and Hugh Struss – made statements implicating Chavez and others involved.
According to Redmon, a former co-worker of Alfonso’s brother Mark Chavez, Mark said that Alfonso had shot at least one of the men, and he said he helped Alfonso dispose of the bodies. The state argues that the trial court erred by excluding the statement Mark made to Redmon, and that Mark’s statements should be admissible because he is a party-opponent. The appeals court held that because the state has not alleged that Mark is a co-conspirator, his statements are not of a party-opponent and are therefore inadmissible as hearsay.
Hugh Struss said that Eric Valdivia told him that Alfonso shot and killed Janek and Abulhusn in the basement of the bar Valdivia owned. The state argued that Valdivia’s statements are admissible because they were an “excited utterance.” But the appeals court held that no indication existed about how much time had passed between the deaths and Valdivia’s statements. Citing Boatner v. State, 934 N.E.2d 184, 186 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010), 934 N.E.2d at 186, the appeals court held that the admission of an excited utterance turns on whether the statement was inherently reliable because the witness was under the stress of a startling event and therefore unlikely to make deliberate falsifications.
The appeals court affirmed the trial court, holding that the state had not shown that trial court abused its discretion by excluding Mark Chavez’s and Valdivia’s statements.