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State failed to prove inmate knew he made false statements

March 19, 2015

Because the state could not establish that a Marion County Jail inmate knew statements he made to a witness over the phone in another inmate’s case were false, the state didn’t prove Johnny Gomillia committed attempted obstruction of justice.

Someone in the jail using Gomillia’s PIN number called Samantha Gaines, a witness in a domestic violence case against David Madriz. Madriz was in the same cell block as Gomillia. The caller told Gaines if she did not come to court, then the charges against Madriz would be dropped and he would be released.

Gomillia argued his PIN had been stolen and he did not make the call, but he was convicted by a jury of Class D felony attempted obstruction of justice.

To convict Gomillia, the Court of Appeals held the state had to prove that Gomillia knew the statements were false, not just that they were in fact false. Even if Gaines did not show up, the trial could have proceeded against Madriz.

“Pursuant to Indiana Code Section 35-41-2-2(d), ‘Unless the statute defining the offense provides otherwise, if a kind of culpability is required for commission of an offense, it is required with respect to every material element of the prohibited conduct.’ Accordingly, the State was required to prove that Gomillia knew the statements were false when he communicated them to Gaines and not just that the statements were in fact false,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote.

“Here, there is no evidence that Gomillia knew the statements were false. ... Without any evidence suggesting Gomillia knew the statements were false, there is insufficient evidence to establish that he knowingly or intentionally attempted to induce Gaines not to testify by false statement.”

The judges reversed Gomillia’s conviction in Johnny Gomillia v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1408-CR-572.
 

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