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COA: Video testimony from protected person allowed at trial

April 26, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a man’s Level 5 felony battery conviction despite admission of a videotaped interview from a protected person into evidence and allowing three people to testify about their interactions with that protected person.

While J.B. was at a party he was assaulted by Christopher Norris after he kicked Norris’ dog. When the case was going to trial, J.B. was determined to be a protected person because testifying in Norris’ presence would be too traumatic for him. Because of that, the court admitted J.B.’s videotaped forensic interview and permitted the state to call three other witnesses who had interactions with J.B. The trial court found Norris guilty and sentenced him to five years executed, with two suspended to probation.

Norris claimed the unavailability determination can only be drawn from the testimony of a psychiatrist, physician or psychologist, and not from another source. J.B. was determined to be a protected person from both a psychologist and a person specially trained to communicate with children in such cases. However, the COA said Indiana Code refers to “other evidence” and that child specialist’s testimony is admissible as other evidence because Indiana Code does not specify it has to come from another doctor. The court also said it doesn’t make a difference that the psychologist’s testimony contains “may” and “might” as the goal is to reduce a child’s emotional trauma caused by numerous court appearances.

The COA also said J.B’s videotaped testimony was admissible because he was not coached during the interview and even corrected some of the interviewer’s inaccuracies during it. He was spontaneous and demonstrative of how he received his injuries.

All three witnesses’ testimonies were admissible as well, as Norris failed to make a cogent argument against two of them, and the third had statements that were determined reliable.

The COA said the trial court erred in allowing the testimony of the person who interviewed J.B. to be admitted into evidence, but the error was harmless. The other evidence is more than enough to convict Norris of the crime.

The COA finally said there was no drumbeat repetition in the trial, as the witnesses merely provided an overview of the situation and a summary of his accusations.

The case is Christopher C. Norris v. State of Indiana, 02A03-1507-CR-841.


 

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