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Monday, April 22, 2013

Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 1 today (and 1 NFP)

For publication opinions today (1):

In Douglas A. Guilmette v. State of Indiana, a 13-page opinion, Sr. Judge Darden writes:

Guilmette contends that the trial court admitted the DNA evidence recovered from his shoe in violation of Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution.1 Specifically, he argues that the shoe, taken incident to his theft arrest, was unconstitutionally searched for evidence of the murder. * * *

Nonetheless, the absence of any exigent law enforcement need tips the scale in Guilmette’s favor. We take no issue with the police taking his shoe at the time of his arrest. Nor was it any violation for the police to look at his shoe and discover in plain view spots that appeared to be blood. At that point, it was altogether reasonable that the police, in the course of the murder investigation, would want to subject the shoe to blood and DNA analysis. However, as Guilmette was initially arrested for the unrelated crimes of theft and not murder, the police should have obtained a warrant to do so. After all, Guilmette was already in custody, the police had the shoe in their possession, and there was thus little chance of contamination or destruction of evidence.

It is one thing to receive an inmate’s clothing for inventory and safekeeping during his incarceration while awaiting trial for a crime. But using that opportunity to investigate and test the clothing regarding an unrelated and uncharged crime triggers the constitutional protection of needing to obtain a warrant to do so. We conclude that the laboratory testing of Guilmette’s shoe, taken incident to his theft arrest, for evidence of the murder was an unconstitutional search under the Indiana Constitution. It was therefore error for the trial court to admit the DNA evidence. * * *

The DNA evidence from the shoe was not the strongest evidence of guilt. It merely consisted of testimony that a small stain on Guilmette’s shoelace tested presumptively for blood and that subsequent DNA testing gave a mixture from which both Piechocki and Guilmette could not be excluded. Moreover, the testimony of four separate and independent witnesses that Guilmette admitted killing Piechocki with a baseball bat constituted overwhelming substantial independent evidence of guilt. Thus, the erroneous admission of the DNA evidence from the shoe was harmless.

NFP civil opinions today (0):

NFP criminal opinions today (1):

Gregory L. Saylor v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 22, 2013 01:23 PM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions