Pawnshop owner not victim of prosecutorial misconduct

August 7, 2015

A prosecutor’s comments to a witness about what would have been helpful did not shift the burden of producing evidence onto the defendant, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.   

Timothy Bryant, owner of Summit City North West All Products, a pawnshop in Fort Wayne, was arrested and charged after police discovered he had been receiving stolen items and not uploading the information about these purchases to LEADS, the state database used to recover stolen goods.

After a jury trial, Bryant was found guilty of two counts of aiding, inducing or causing receiving stole property, a Class D felony, and corrupt business influence, a Class C felony.

He appealed, alleging prosecutorial misconduct. He argued the prosecutor’s comments during cross-examination essentially shifted the burden onto the defendant to establish his innocence.

Bryant asserted at trial that he had not uploaded the information because he was having technical difficulties with LEADS. He did not testify but his employee did and reiterated the problems with the state database.

The prosecutor questioned the employee, “… wouldn’t it have been helpful to explain these upload problems occurred to other people by bringing in these other records to show … their property didn’t get uploaded. …” Bryant objected and moved for a mistrial which the Wells Circuit Court denied.

In Timothy H. Bryant v. State of Indiana, 90A04-1501-CR-11, the Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. The unanimous panel said the prosecutor’s comments were not “improper burden-shifting but rather permissible impeachment of a defense witness, arising from the evidence the defendant introduced.”



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