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Thursday, January 08, 2015

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today

In Frank Jacobs v. State of Indiana, a 6-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Rucker writes:

After a bench trial Frank Jacobs was convicted of criminal deviate conduct and criminal confinement. On appeal Jacobs argued, among other things, the trial court erred in limiting his cross-examination of a witness concerning the credibility for truthfulness of the alleged victim. Finding no error we affirm the judgment of the trial court. * * *

Jacobs appealed raising the following restated issues: (1) whether the trial court erred when it excluded testimony regarding G.L.’s truthfulness; (2) whether the trial court erred when it denied Jacobs’ request to present his son as a sur-rebuttal witness; and (3) whether Jacobs’ convictions subjected him to double jeopardy. Agreeing with the State’s concession on the point, the Court of Appeals granted Jacob relief with respect to his third issue and remanded this cause to the trial court with instructions to vacate Jacobs’ conviction for Class C felony criminal confinement. See Jacobs v. State, 2 N.E.3d 116, 123 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), vacated. Concerning issues two and three [ILB: sic, probably means "issues one and two"] , the Court of Appeals concluded the trial court erred but the error was harmless. Having previously granted transfer we address whether the trial court erred when it excluded testimony regarding G.L.’s truthfulness. In all other respects, we summarily affirm the opinion of the Court of Appeals. * * *

Indiana Evidence Rule 608 provides that the credibility of a witness may be attacked or supported by evidence in the form of opinion or reputation for truthfulness but that specific instances may not be inquired into or proven by extrinsic evidence. Here, Jacobs’ evidence was not in the form of opinion or reputation, and therefore was not admissible under Rule 608(a). Instead, Jacobs attempted to delve into specific instances of G.L.’s conduct, namely, whether G.L. had lied to his mother on prior occasions; Rule 608(b) specifically prohibits inquiring into or proving specific instances by extrinsic evidence. See Beaty v. State, 856 N.E.2d 1264, 1269 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006), trans. denied (“Indiana cases have consistently held that Evidence Rule 608(b) prohibits the introduction of evidence regarding specific instances of misconduct.”). In addition, the limited exception referenced in the last sentence of Rule 608(b) is not applicable because G.L.’s mother did not testify as to G.L.’s truthfulness. * * *

In sum, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by prohibiting evidence of specific instances of conduct regarding G.L.’s truthfulness.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 8, 2015 10:39 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions