A copy of a video originally taken by a home security device was properly entered as evidence in convicting an Indiana man of burglary, according to the Court of Appeals of Indiana.
In April 2021, Marvin Fredrick came home from work around 4 p.m. and ate dinner with his wife, Maria. After dinner, the husband went outside “to mess with” a BB gun he had bought earlier that day.
When he was done, Fredrick put the BB gun in a “back room” of the house and then went upstairs to take a nap. After his nap, he came back downstairs with the intention to take the BB gun outside again but couldn’t find it.
The couple checked the recording from a surveillance camera at the rear entry to the house, which showed at 8 p.m. an unknown man entering the house through the back door and, about 30 seconds later, leaving the house holding the BB gun.
The Fredricks contacted the police and an officer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department came to the house. Marvin had “copied [the surveillance video] on [his] phone and put it on the computer and then put it on a memory stick.” Maria gave the memory stick to the officer.
Later, IMPD officer Jonathon Willey, who was familiar with appellant-defendant Michael R. Hamilton, watched the surveillance video and identified him as the man who broke and entered into the home and stole the BB gun.
The state charged Hamilton with burglary as a Level 4 felony. During the ensuing bench trial, Hamilton objected to the admission of the state’s Exhibit 1, which was a copy of the surveillance video showing Hamilton leaving the Fredricks’ home with the BB gun.
The video shown in court had been made by someone using a handheld recording device to record a playback of the video on a screen. The trial court admitted Exhibit 1 over Hamilton’s objection, and the court found Hamilton guilty as charged. Hamilton was sentenced to eight years, with two years suspended.
Upon review, the Court of Appeals found the Marion Superior Court didn’t err when it admitted the challenged evidence, which Willey testified was the same copy of the surveillance video used to originally identify Hamilton.
“Hamilton does not explain how the absence of the time and date stamp on the copy undermines the exhibit’s authenticity in light of the testimony that the copy was, in all other substantive respects, the same as the original recording,” Judge Edward Najam Jr. opined for the COA. “And Hamilton has not shown that the admission of the copy rather than the original surveillance video was unfair to him. Thus, State’s Exhibit 1 was admissible under Evidence Rule 1003.
“In addition, we agree with the trial court that the copy of the recording was admissible under the ‘silent witness’ theory, or Indiana Evidence Rule 901(b)(9), which provides that ‘evidence about a process or system’ may be authenticated or identified with ‘[e]vidence describing a process or system and showing that it produces an accurate result,’” Najam continued.
The case is Michael R. Hamilton v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-2519.