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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Ind. Decisons - Supreme Court decides one today

[This is the first opinion upon which the Court's newest justice has voted.]

In Thomas L. Hale v. State of Indiana, an 8-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Massa writes:

Thomas Hale appeals his conviction for dealing in methamphetamine, on the sole grounds that the trial court abused its discretion in failing to grant him, at public expense, depositions of two State’s witnesses. We find that our prior precedent compels us to agree with Hale and reverse his conviction, but take this opportunity to provide guidance as to how trial courts should address such motions in the future. * * *

Given these competing concerns, we believe that when the trial court denies an indigent defendant’s motion to conduct a deposition at public expense, the court should issue factual findings addressing each part of the Dillard/Crawford test. The trial judge is ultimately in the best position to consider the sincerity of the parties’ arguments regarding the three-part test, as well as the overall costs associated with the proposed depositions, and potential alternatives that may better promote pre-trial efficiency of the case. But without the benefit of knowing the trial court’s rationale, our appellate courts are forced to presume that “exculpatory or mitigating evidence would have surfaced from the depositions sought.” Murphy, 265 Ind. at 121, 352 N.E.2d at 483. Specific findings by the trial court, however, should resolve that ambiguity going forward.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 16, 2016 12:47 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions