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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ind. Decisions - One today from the Supreme Court

In Ian J. Clark v. State, a 10-page, 5-0 opinion an a direct appeal from the Kosciusko Circuit Court, Chief Justice Shepard writes:

A jury found appellant Ian J. Clark guilty of murdering a two-year-old left in his care, and it recommended life in prison without parole, which the trial court imposed. Many of the grounds he urges as reasons for reversal were not preserved at trial. One of his trial objections does pose a novel question: should the trial court have permitted the State to offer into evidence Clark’s entry from the social networking website MySpace? We hold that this electronic evidence was admissible, and we affirm Clark’s conviction and sentence. * * *

[His fiancée Matara Muchowicz] had helped Clark create his own personal entry on MySpace, the social networking website. Clark testified in his own defense, and the prosecutor read to Clark, over defense counsel’s objection, his own description of himself * * *

Clark contends the trial court abused its discretion when it admitted evidence of his MySpace posting. Clark claims this was inadmissible character evidence, citing Indiana Rule of Evidence 404(b) * * *

We conclude that the trial court properly admitted the evidence of Clark’s MySpace page. Clark’s posting contained only statements about himself and in reference to himself. Thus, the State is right to observe that this is solely evidence of his own statements, not of prior criminal acts. It was Clark’s words and not his deeds that were at issue, so Rule 404(b) does not apply.

It is only slightly more difficult to consider whether the MySpace entry was actually probative of any issue at trial. * * * Once Clark took the stand to testify along these lines, it was proper to permit the prosecution to confront Clark with his own seemingly prideful declarations that rebutted his defense. Clark’s MySpace declarations shared much with his boast to the police after he killed Samantha: ―It’s only a C Felony. I can beat this. * * *

[Re Clark's five claims of fundamental error, the Court concludes] The foregoing events during trial did not constitute a ―blatant violation of basic and elementary due process‖ making a fair trial impossible, the standard for fundamental error.

Conclusion. We affirm the conviction and sentence for murder.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 15, 2009 11:09 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions