Appellate court rejects Brady claim but rebukes state for not disclosing witness’s complete criminal history

IL file photo

While the Court of Appeals of Indiana agreed with the state that the withholding of evidence about a witness was “negligible, at best” in a trial that ended with a murder conviction, it admonished the prosecutors for failing to disclose, reminding them to present all the evidence and let the courts decide what is admissible.

The Vanderburgh Circuit Court granted Elijah Parchman’s motion to correct error requesting a new trial following his conviction for murder and attempted murder. Parchman maintained he acted in self-defense. But Ikeem Minor, who was shot by Parchman and whose brother, Bobby, was shot and killed by Parchman, said he and his brother had not been carrying guns and were not physically close to Parchman when the shots were fired.

Following the jury’s guilty verdict, the trial court did its own research and found that Minor had a 2008 juvenile delinquency adjudication for committing what would have been Class B felony burglary if committed by an adult. The disposition of that adjudication was taken more than 10 years before Minor testified at Parchman’s trial.

The trial court subsequently appointed Parchman a new attorney to investigate whether the state had prejudiced the outcome by withholding evidence of Minor’s 2008 juvenile delinquency adjudication.

After Parchman filed a motion asking for a new trial, the state responded by acknowledging it had inadvertently suppressed Minor’s juvenile record but argued Parchman had not be prejudiced. Parchman countered that the case boiled down to his credibility versus Minor’s, and the state’s failure to disclose Minor’s past denied him the opportunity to impeach Minor’s credibility.

Ultimately, the Vanderburgh Circuit Court granted a new trial, finding Parchman had been “denied a fair trial due to the State’s failure to provide impeachment evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).”

The Court of Appeals reversed in State of Indiana v. Elijah I. Parchman, 21A-CR-447, finding the trial court abused its discretion in granting Parchman’s motion.

Determining the Parchman case turned on whether the nondisclosure was prejudicial to the defendant, the appellate panel looked to McKnight v. State, 1 N.E.3d 193 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013), and found, considering all the evidence presented at trial, that the omission of Minor’s 10-year-old juvenile delinquency adjudication was “negligible, at best.”

Namely, the Court of Appeals found Minor’s testimony was supported by testimony from the police that Parchman was standing more than 100 feet away from the victims when he began shooting and by evidence showing Minor and his brother were both shot in the back on their buttocks.

“Based on these specific particular facts, we conclude, as we did in McKnight, that Parchman has not demonstrated a reasonable probability that the outcome of this trial would have been different had trial counsel know about Minor’s juvenile delinquency adjudication and attempted to impeach him with questions about that remote adjudication,” Judge Rudolph Pyle wrote for the court. “Accordingly, Parchman’s Brady claim fails.”

However, the Court of Appeals admonished the state in a footnote about withholding Minor’s juvenile record. The appellate panel said the trial court was “rightfully displeased” and “we disapprove of the State’s failure to provide Parchman with Minor’s complete criminal history.” The appellate court pointed out criminal history information is “almost exclusively” within the state’s control to retrieve and the courts, not the state, determines “whether evidence is prejudicial or inadmissible.”

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