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COA affirms admission of 911 recording into evidence

July 25, 2017

Editor's note: This article contains language that may be offensive to some readers.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Tuesday a woman’s conviction of misdemeanor criminal recklessness for firing a gun during an argument after the court determined the admission of a 911 call recorded during the incident was not an abuse of discretion.

In Ludina Roshida Wallace v. State of Indiana, 71A03-1702-CR-364, Deja Cline and Michael Jackson, who were previously in a relationship and who had a child together, were both at a gas station when Jackson took the child from Cline’s vehicle and drove away with the child in his vehicle. Cline drove to Jackson’s South Bend home to pick up the child, where Jackson’s ex-girlfriend, Ludina Wallace, was also present.

An argument ensued between Cline and Wallace, and Cline threatened to damage Wallace’s vehicle. Wallace then drew a semiautomatic handgun and fired multiple shots, claiming she pulled the gun in response to Cline trying to attack her with a paring knife. Cline, however, maintained she was never in possession of any weapon, nor did she ever charge at Wallace.

Meanwhile, Jackson called 911 and can be heard in the recording urging someone to “shoot the shit out of the bitch,” and also telling “LaLa” to “get your gun and go.” Only Cline remained at the scene when South Bend police arrived, and she declined medical treatment for a bleeding leg.

The state then charged Wallace with Level 6 felony criminal recklessness, but in response she claimed she was justified in using reasonable force “to prevent imminence of serious bodily injury.” The St. Joseph Superior Court, however, found her guilty as charged and also found Cline’s testimony to be more credible than Wallace’s.

Thus, the trial court entered judgment of conviction against Wallace for criminal recklessness as a Class A misdemeanor and imposed a one-year suspended sentence. On appeal, Wallace challenged the admission of the 911 recording into evidence on the basis of hearsay, lack of confrontation and unfair prejudice.

The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected each of those arguments Tuesday, with Judge Patricia Riley writing first that the call qualified for admission under the excited utterance exception to the hearsay rule. Jackson’s comments during the call were not reflective, Riley wrote, but instead were spoken “in the heat of the moment in response to the excitement of the unfolding altercation between Wallace and Cline.”

Further, Jackson’s statements to the 911 operator were not testimonial, so their admission did not violate Wallace’s confrontation rights, Riley said. Finally, the admission of the 911 recording was not prejudicial because it assisted the fact-finder in make a credibility determination as to the relevant issue: whether Wallace had fired her gun in self-defense against Cline.

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