Bungled recording does not violate constitutional rights

July 15, 2015

An Anderson man’s argument that his due process rights were violated by law enforcement’s failure to record the audio from two interviews with his daughters did not convince the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Robert Seal’s conviction for child molesting, incest and sexual misconduct were affirmed by a unanimous appellate panel in Robert Seal v. State of Indiana, 48A02-1410-CR-775.

Police first attempted to record the interviews with the two girls in the squad car and again, later, at the police station. However, both times for unknown reasons the recordings did not capture the sound.

On appeal, Seal challenged his conviction, partly on the grounds that the state’s failure to preserve the audio recordings of his victims’ interviews violated his constitutional rights. Specifically, he argued his rights were violated under the Sixth and 14 Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Sections 12 and 13 of the Indiana Constitution.

The Court of Appeals pointed out there is no constitutional or statutory requirement that the police record interviews with victims. Also, the panel noted, there is no evidence the state intentionally sabotaged or destroyed the audio recordings.

Seal countered it does not matter whether the state acted in good faith because the interviews contained materially exculpatory evidence. He contended his counsel could have shown the girls were fabricating their stories.

“To the extent that Seal asserts that his rights to effectively cross-examine the witnesses and to present a defense were violated, we note again that the interviews were summarized, both girls testified, and Seal fails to explain how the summaries were inadequate to assist him in cross-examining the girls,” Judge Terry Crone wrote for the court. “Although he sets forth numerous facts that he argues were relevant to the girls’ motives to fabricate, he was not limited in his scope of cross-examining the girls with regard to those facts. In short, we find no federal or state constitutional violations in this regard.”



Recent Articles by Marilyn Odendahl