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COA agrees state did not interfere with defense

February 25, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a man’s convictions for criminal confinement and domestic battery, among other charges, after it found the state did not interfere by not allowing one of the man’s witnesses to testify.

John Hill was convicted of Class C felony criminal confinement, domestic battery as a Class D felony, and Class A misdemeanors domestic battery and interference with the reporting of a crime.

On Dec. 18, 2013, an officer from the Elkhart Police Department came to the residence of John and Ashley Hill after an incomplete 911 call. The officer found Ashley Hill screaming and her shirt stretched, and John Hill with a phone in his hand and a scratch on his finger. John Hill was later arrested on the charges above.

On April 22, 2014, Ashley Hill told the prosecutor she lied in her written statement to the officer about what happened, though the officer had taken oral statements from both sides at the scene as well, and the officer recorded everything that happened at the scene.

During the trial, John Hill wanted to call his wife as a witness but the trial court denied it, saying if she invokes her Fifth Amendment rights, she will be an irrelevant witness and everything will be too confusing for the jury. John Hill was allowed to question Ashley Hill outside the jury’s purveyance, but when questions got to what happened on that day, she invoked her Fifth Amendment rights.

John Hill said the state improperly interfered with his defense by moving to exclude Ashley Hill’s testimony, and intimated her into invoking her Fifth Amendment rights. The COA disagreed.

First, the COA said John Hill did not reassert his objection at trial with the introduction of the evidence and thus waived his appeal to claim errors in the court’s judgment.

Also, the court said John Hill invited the error by putting his wife on the stand after the trial court’s cautions, and a party may not take advantage of an error they commit, invite or is because of their own neglect or misconduct.

The court said even if an error had occurred, it was harmless because the jury heard evidence from multiple sources, including the officer at the scene and the recording of the scene.

Finally, the COA said the state did not intimidate Ashley Hill, but was concerned about her committing a crime of perjury. The statements John Hill objected to made by the state were not threatening.

The case is John H. Hill v State of Indiana, 20A03-1507-CR-907.
 

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