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Justices to hear appeal of man convicted in son-in-law’s stabbing

January 12, 2015

The Indiana Supreme Court has added to its docket a case that split the Court of Appeals over whether allegedly inconsistent statements of a man stabbed by his father-in-law should have been admitted.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction of Class C felony battery and four-year sentence imposed on Peter Griffith of Anderson. But Court of Appeals Judge Michael Barnes dissented and would have overturned Griffith’s conviction and remanded for a new trial.

Griffith was convicted of stabbing his neighbor and son-in-law, Darren Wiles, after Wiles and his wife – Griffith’s daughter – had been arguing. Griffith, who had been drinking, approached Wiles’ house and stabbed him in the back and cut him on the arm before trying to cut his throat, according to the record.

But Griffith claimed the trial court misapplied Evidence Rule 613(b) by disallowing Wiles’ allegedly inconsistent statements after he had testified. Griffith claims he was acting in self-defense because Wiles first struck him with a two-by-four piece of lumber. Griffith also claimed Wiles made conflicting statements to other witnesses.

The Court of Appeals majority – Judge Elaine Brown and Judge Cale Bradford – wrote that it would have been improper for the court to admit extrinsic evidence from the two witnesses without giving Wiles a chance to explain or deny the inconsistent statements. Griffith’s counsel never asked Wiles about the two-by-four when Wiles was on the stand, nor did he call him back to testify regarding the statements.   

In his dissent, Barnes wrote that the majority and trial court applied too stringent a standard, and that foreclosing Griffith’s ability to present evidence of Wiles’ statements threatened his Sixth Amendment right to present a defense.

The case is Peter Griffith v. State of Indiana, 48A02-1310-CR-909.

Justices dismissed an appeal that was previously granted transfer, In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of S.G., minor child, and K.G., the mother, and S.L., the father, K.G. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 79A02-1403-JT-194.

Justices unanimously denied transfer in 13 other cases. Indiana Supreme Court transfer dispositions may be viewed here.

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