Bragging is admissible in court, COA rules

March 25, 2015

A defendant’s statement to law enforcement that he could “read” people was a boast and not a character reference, according to the Indiana Court of Appeals, so it was admissible at trial.

Larry Bell appealed his conviction of Class B felony rape and subsequent admission of being a habitual offender. He was charged with forcing a 17-year-old woman who was intoxicated by alcohol and marijuana to have sexual intercourse.

At trial, Bell maintained he did not know the victim was unaware of what was occurring. However, the prosecution introduced testimony from a deputy sheriff from Michigan in which Bell said he “could judge a person, read a person basically, he was a people’s person and he could read a person by the way they acted, by the way they looked, by their actions.”

On appeal, Bell argued the trial court erred when it admitted his personal assessment, in part, because the statement was improper character evidence.

The Court of Appeals did not agree and affirmed his conviction in Larry Bell v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1405-CR-205. The panel found Bell’s statement was not hearsay nor irrelevant or unfairly prejudicial.

The court held it was not inadmissible character evidence. Pointing to academic writings by Judge Robert Miller Jr., U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, the panel noted character refers to a person’s disposition or nature. In Bell’s case, the court ruled his statement was not about his character trait but “more of a bragging description of his ability.”



Recent Articles by Marilyn Odendahl