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Appeals court affirms battery, neglect convictions despite errors

July 7, 2017

The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld a man’s battery and neglect convictions after finding that any error in the admission of certain testimony and evidence was harmless due because the properly admitted evidence was sufficient to prove the man’s guilt.

On the evening of Sept. 30, 2015, Coltan Perryman would not allow his girlfriend’s son, A.G., to eat dinner with R.P., Perryman’s daughter, and Leeann Barnes, his girlfriend’s mother. Barnes, concerned that A.G. could not take his medicine if he did not eat, went upstairs to find A.G., but Perryman intercepted her and waved her off. She did not see A.G. for the rest of the evening.

When Perryman’s girlfriend, Syreena Schooler returned home from her nightshift at work, she discovered the left half of A.G.’s face was bloodied and bruised, as was his right shoulder. A.G. said he had hit himself, and Perryman convinced Schooler to wait to take him to the hospital.

Once at the hospital the next morning, and the examining staff did not believe the injuries were self-inflicted, so a hospital social worker notified the Department of Child Services, who then notified the Lebanon Police Department. Perryman had previously refused to leave A.G.’s side, but quickly left the hospital when he learned DCS would be arriving.

After his discharge, A.G. was taken to Boone County’s Child Advocacy Center, where he eventually told an interviewer Perryman had hit him because he was mad. Perryman was then charged with Level 3 felony battery causing serious bodily injury to a child younger than 14, Level 6 felony neglect of a dependent, and being a habitual offender.

During trial, a video of A.G.’s C.A.C. interview was played, and a nurse from the hospital testified that A.G. told the social worker Perryman had hit him with a closed fist. Additionally, an Indiana State Police forensic biologist testified to her analysis of the clothes A.G. and Perryman were wearing the day of the incident, and one of Perryman’s jailers offered late-disclosed evidence of Perryman’s booking records at the jail. That evidence showed Perryman was right-handed, but during trial he was seen taking notes with his left hand.

A jury found Perryman guilty as charged as to the felony offenses, but Perryman moved for a mistrial on the grounds that jurors had seen him while he was standing handcuffed in the courthouse. The trial court denied that motion, and Perryman was found to be a habitual offender.

Perryman appealed, but the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed his convictions Friday in Coltan A. Perryman v. State of Indiana, 06A01-1605-CR-1049.

On appeal, Perryman challenged the admissibility of various pieces of evidence and testimony, including the admission of the C.A.C. interview. He claimed the video was inadmissible under the protected person statute, but Judge Paul Mathias wrote that A.G.’s statements in the video were reliable. Mathias also rejected Perryman’s argument that his Sixth Amendment rights were violated by the video’s admission because those rights had not attached at the time of the interview and because he was not denied the opportunity to cross-examine A.G.

However, the appellate court did find the admission of the nurse’s testimony to be inadmissible hearsay, yet also said that error was harmless because there was other properly admitted evidence supporting Perryman’s conviction. The court reached a similar conclusion with regard to the biologist’s testimony, though the court assumed without deciding that Perry was correct in his argument that the state “failed to show the ‘stringent chain of custody (required) for serological evidence….’”

Perryman also challenged the jailer’s lately introduced evidence, but the appellate panel found no evidence of bad faith on the state’s part, and further said any prejudice to Perryman was not substantial. The court then went on to say that in light of all the evidence, it was sufficient to sustain Perryman’s convictions.

Finally, the appellate panel affirmed the decision to deny the motion for a mistrial, finding Perryman did not prove any juror actually saw him in handcuffs, but that he was merely in the presence of jurors while handcuffed.


 

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