Delinquent adjudication affirmed in child molestation case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a juvenile’s adjudication as a delinquent for felony child molestation despite the juvenile’s claim that evidence of his crime was not sufficiently established.

In J.C. v. State of Indiana, 19A-JV-1311, juvenile J.C. was found to have committed what would be Level 4 felony child molesting if committed by an adult against the infant child of a family friend.

When, during a fact-finding hearing, the state asked J.C.’s interviewing detective whether J.C. had admitted to having contact with the infant, J.C. objected. The St. Joseph Probate Court overruled the objection, concluding that evidence of contact between J.C. and the victim had been established and agreeing with the state that there was “at least a modicum of circumstantial evidence suggesting that some contact as alleged in the petition occurred … .”

J.C. was then adjudicated as a delinquent and subsequently placed on probation. He appealed, arguing the juvenile court erred by admitting evidence of his confession without proof pursuant to the corpus delicti rule.

The Indiana Court of Appeals, however, concluded that the totality of independent evidence established an inference that a crime occurred, citing testimony provided by the infant’s father.

“Proof of the corpus delicti of any crime, for purposes of admitting the defendant’s out-of-court statement, may be proven by circumstantial evidence and need not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. … Such is the case here – all of these facts, taken together, support an inference that a crime occurred given that the infant victim in this case is unable to communicate her story,” Judge Margret Robb wrote for the appellate court.

“…Given the evidence presented,” Robb wrote, “we conclude that the juvenile court properly found that the corpus delicti rule was satisfied and admitted J.C.’s confession into evidence.”

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