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COA: Evidence not inadmissible hearsay in domestic battery

February 12, 2019

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a man’s domestic battery and strangulation convictions when it found his arguments failed to prove that admitted evidence was inadmissible hearsay.

After returning home from work at 7:30 a.m., K.B. found her live-in boyfriend Cody Chambless drinking in the living room. When the two got into an argument about his drinking, Chambless punched holes in the wall and broke a door on an upstairs bathroom. An altercation ensued, and K.B. fled to a nearby gas station where she called 911.

K.B. told police and a medic on the scene that Chambless had beaten her, slapped her in the face and strangled her with his hands, leaving “just in time.” The medic observed abrasions to each side of K.B.’s jaw and a bruise on the bottom of K.B.’s neck.

Despite K.B’s recantation at trial, a jury found Chambless guilty after listening to a jail call between Chambless and K.B., K.B.’s statements made to the medic and her 911 call. Chambless was thus convicted of Level 5 felony domestic battery, Level 6 felony domestic battery and Level 6 felony strangulation.

On appeal, Chambless raised three evidentiary and one sufficiency issues, arguing that the trial court should not have admitted out-of-court statements made by K.B. and that the evidence failed to support his convictions because it was inadmissible hearsay. Noting that K.B. recanted her allegations at trial, Chambless argued his guilty verdict was “completely against logic and sound reasoning.”

The appeals court disagreed, finding that because K.B. made a 911 call merely 18 minutes after the fight took place, her statements were unrehearsed and made while still under stress from the fight. It thus concluded that her statements were an excited utterance.

It further found that the medic would need to know the identity of the abuser in order to render proper diagnosis and treatment and to find services best suited for K.B. As a result, K.B.’s statements that Chambless had strangled her were not inadmissible.

“Thus, while the identification of an attacker in a statement to a medical professional is normally not admissible under Indiana Evidence Rule 803(4), K.B.’s statement here identifying Chambless as her attacker was admissible to aid Medic Bradbury in her diagnosis and treatment of K.B.,” Judge James Kirsch wrote.

Additionally, the appellate court found that Chambless failed to recognize that recordings of telephone calls made from jail are admissible when the defendant discusses the crime for which he is incarcerated, whether that included statements he made, or statements made by K.B.  It noted Chambless chose at his own risk to discuss his crime over the phone with K.B., knowing the call was recorded.

Lastly, the appellate court found that there was sufficient evidence to support Chambless’ convictions in Cody J. Chambless v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-1384. It noted that independent evidence of the assault could be found in K.B.’s bruises and abrasions on her neck and face.

“This independent evidence is especially important because where, as here, a victim recants, a conviction may not rest on a repudiated out-of-court statement unless there is substantial independent evidence of probative value from which the jury could find that the repudiated statement is credible,” Kirsch wrote. “Here, the testimony of Medic Bradbury, Officer Geiger, and Detective Epps regarding her injuries provided such substantial evidence that allowed the jury to find that K.B.’s repudiated statement was, in fact, credible.”

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