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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today

In George Sanders v. State, Justice Sullivan writes:

Defendant George Sanders wrote a letter of confession that was used against him at his trial for child molesting. The letter he wrote contained a reference to the fact that the victim had been molested previously but this reference was redacted when the letter was presented to the jury. The Court of Appeals held that the redacted material was necessary for the jury to understand the letter’s context. But we find that the letter as used did not present the letter out of context in a way that misled the jury. * * *

At trial, the State admitted over Sanders’s objection a version of this letter that was redacted. In the redacted version of the letter, the following language was omitted from the fifth paragraph: “and that she had been molested by her father and her mother’s boy friend.”1 App. at 428. The jury found Sanders guilty as charged, and the trial court sentenced him to 30 years for Class A child molesting. On appeal, Sanders argued, among other things, that the trial court erred in admitting the redacted version of his letter.[2] Finding that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting into evidence the redacted version of the letter and that it had an unduly prejudicial effect on the jury, the Court of Appeals reversed Sanders’s convictions. Sanders v. State, 823 N.E.2d 313, 319 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005). The State petitioned to, and we granted, transfer. 2005 Ind. LEXIS 443 (Ind. May 12, 2005). * * *

We summarily affirm the Court of Appeals only as to the issue discussed in Footnote 2 and affirm the trial court. * * *
[2] Sanders also argued that the trial court erred in denying the admission of evidence pertaining to J.R.’s mental history. The Court of Appeals found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding this evidence, Sanders v. State, 823 N.E.2d 313, 319 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005), and we summarily affirm the Court of Appeals on this issue. Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A).

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 12, 2006 12:14 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions