Hamilton v. State, No. 65A04–1412–CR–592.

Docket NºNo. 65A04–1412–CR–592.
Citation43 N.E.3d 628
Case DateSeptember 09, 2015
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

43 N.E.3d 628

Melvin C. HAMILTON, Appellant–Defendant
v.
STATE of Indiana, Appellee–Plaintiff.

No. 65A04–1412–CR–592.

Court of Appeals of Indiana.

Sept. 9, 2015.


43 N.E.3d 630

William W. Gooden, Mt. Vernon, IN, Attorney for Appellant.

Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana, Angela N. Sanchez, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Appellee.

BARNES, Judge.

Case Summary

1] Melvin Hamilton appeals his convictions for three counts of Class A felony child molesting. We reverse and remand.

Issue

[2] The sole restated issue before us is whether the trial court properly allowed witnesses for the State to vouch for the credibility of the alleged victims.

Facts

[3] A.S. and D.P. are the foster children of Heather and Charles Reese. Hamilton is Charles's stepfather. Hamilton frequently babysat the children at his home in Posey County. In 2014, A.S. was ten, and D.P. was five. A.S. and D.P. called Hamilton “Pappy.” Tr. p. 29.

[4] On February 24, 2014, A.S. and D.P. spent the night at Hamilton's house. During the night, D.P. awoke to Hamilton putting his finger in her “private.” Id. at 46. A.S. was in the same room at the time, and Hamilton also put his finger in her “private” while D.P. watched. Id. at 56. Hamilton had done similar things to A.S. on at least five prior occasions.

[5] On the following morning, D.P. spontaneously told Heather that Pappy had touched her; when asked where, D.P. pointed to her vagina. Both D.P. and A.S. subsequently were interviewed by Molly Elfreich, a trained forensic interviewer, and D.P. and A.S. described the molestations to her. A medical doctor also examined D.P. and A.S., who recounted the molestations to the doctor.

[6] After the forensic interview and medical examination, Detective Jeremy Fortune of the Posey County Sheriff's Department interviewed Hamilton. During the interview, the following exchanged occurred:

[Fortune]: [T]his is the thing, Chuck, for a five year old to say somebody stuck their finger in my vagina is pretty powerful.
[Hamilton]: Very much so.
[Fortune]: That's pretty powerful.
[Hamilton]: Where, where is she coming up with that?
[Fortune]: And, and to say “Pappy did it” ...
[Hamilton]: Exactly.
[Fortune]: ... that's even more powerful.
[Hamilton]: I agree.

Ex. 7 p. 29.

[7] The State charged Hamilton with three counts of Class A felony child molesting and one count of Class C felony child molesting. At his jury trial, during cross-examination of D.P., counsel for Hamilton asked, “Has anyone told you what to say today?” Tr. p. 51. D.P. said no one had. Similarly, counsel for Hamilton asked A.S. during cross-examination, “Has anyone told you what you should say here today?” Id. at 59. A.S. stated only that she had been told to tell the truth.

[8] The State also called Elfreich to testify after D.P. and A.S. testified. Without objection, the State asked Elfreich to describe various factors that she would look for as indicators that a child had been coached; namely, whether the child has

[43 N.E.3d 631

trouble recalling details or has to start a story over when detailed questions are asked. Also without objection, the State asked Elfreich whether she had observed those factors when interviewing D.P. and A.S., and she testified that she had not. Then, over Hamilton's objection, the State asked Elfreich whether she had observed any indicators of coaching in either child, and she testified that she had not. Also, Hamilton objected to the jury hearing Detective Fortune say during his interview of Hamilton that D.P.'s statements describing her molestation had been “powerful.” Ex. 7 p. 29. The trial court overruled this objection.

9] The jury found Hamilton guilty of three counts of Class A felony child molestation and not guilty of the Class C felony child molestation charge. The trial court sentenced Hamilton accordingly, and he now appeals.

Analysis

[10] Hamilton contends that the trial court erred in overruling his objections to purported vouching by Elfreich and Detective Fortune regarding the truthfulness of D.P.'s and A.S.'s testimony. “A trial court has broad discretion in ruling on the admissibility of evidence and we will disturb its rulings only where it is shown that the court abused that discretion.” Hoglund v. State, 962 N.E.2d 1230, 1237 (Ind.2012). “An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court's decision is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances before it.” Id.

[11] In Hoglund, our supreme court addressed existing case law regarding vouching testimony in the context of child sex abuse cases. Specifically, in Lawrence v. State, 464 N.E.2d 923, 925 (Ind.1984), the court had held that trial courts were allowed to permit “some accrediting of the child witness in the form of opinions from parents, teachers, and others having adequate experience with the child, that the child is not prone to exaggerate or fantasize about sexual matters.” The Hoglund court noted that Lawrence predated the adoption of the Indiana Evidence Rules. In particular, Indiana Evidence Rule 704(b), enacted in 1994, provides: “Witnesses may not testify to opinions concerning intent, guilt, or innocence in a criminal case; the truth or falsity of allegations; whether a witness has testified truthfully; or legal conclusions.” Cases decided by this court after adoption of the Evidence Rules construed Lawrence “as representing an exception to Rule 704(b) noting that the Rule is relaxed in the child molestation context.” Hoglund, 962 N.E.2d at 1234 (citing, e.g., Rose v. State, 846 N.E.2d 363, 367 (Ind.Ct.App.2006) ).

[12] The Hoglund court overruled Lawrence. Specifically, the court held allowing testimony that a child is not prone to exaggerate or fantasize about sexual matters is “indirect vouching testimony [that] is little different than testimony that the child witness is telling the truth.” Id. at 1237. The court held that such testimony is at odds with Evidence Rule 704(b) and that it was inappropriate to carve out an exception to the rule for sex abuse cases. Id.

[13] In Kindred v. State, 973 N.E.2d 1245 (Ind.Ct.App.2012), trans. denied, this court addressed Hoglund 's holding in the context of testimony related to whether an alleged child sex abuse victim had been “coached.” Ultimately, we stated:

We hold that general testimony about the signs of coaching, as well as the presence or absence of those signs in the child victim at issue, preserves the ultimate credibility determination for the jury and therefore does not constitute vouching. By contrast, where a witness opines as to whether the child victim was coached—offering an ultimate opinion

[43 N.E.3d 632

... the witness invades the province of the jury and vouches for the child.

Kindred, 973 N.E.2d at 1258. Another panel...

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5 practice notes
  • Alvarez-Madrigal v. State, Court of Appeals Case No. 49A02-1601-CR-162
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • March 13, 2017
    ...is inconsistent with substantial justice or affects the substantial rights of a party. Ind. Evidence Rule 103(a) ; Hamilton v. State , 43 N.E.3d 628, 633-34 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015) (citing Bradford v. State, 960 N.E.2d 871, 877 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012) ), on reh'g , 49 N.E.3d 554 (Ind. Ct. App. 20......
  • Hamilton v. State, No. 65A04–1412–CR–592.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • December 23, 2015
    ...ON REHEARINGBARNES, Judge.1] The State petitions for rehearing following our decision in Hamilton v. State, No. 65A04–1412–CR–592, 43 N.E.3d 628, 2015 WL 5254104 (Ind.Ct.App. Sept. 9, 2015). The State does not contend that we erred in concluding that certain vouching testimony was inadmissi......
  • Ramirez v. State, 20A-CR-1982
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • May 6, 2021
    ...how to testify; Sampson v. State, 38 N.E.3d 985, 992 (Ind. 2015), Norris, 53 N.E.3d at 521 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016), and Hamilton v. State, 43 N.E.3d 628, 633 (Ind.Ct.App. 2015), trans. denied; 2) testimony addressing whether a child was sexually abused based on observations of child abuse syndro......
  • Ramirez v. State, Court of Appeals Case No. 20A-CR-1982
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • May 6, 2021
    ...how to testify; Sampson v. State, 38 N.E.3d 985, 992 (Ind. 2015), Norris, 53 N.E.3d at 521 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016), and Hamilton v. State, 43 N.E.3d 628, 633 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015), trans. denied; 2) testimony addressing whether a child was sexually abused based on observations of child abuse sy......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Alvarez-Madrigal v. State, Court of Appeals Case No. 49A02-1601-CR-162
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • March 13, 2017
    ...is inconsistent with substantial justice or affects the substantial rights of a party. Ind. Evidence Rule 103(a) ; Hamilton v. State , 43 N.E.3d 628, 633-34 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015) (citing Bradford v. State, 960 N.E.2d 871, 877 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012) ), on reh'g , 49 N.E.3d 554 (Ind. Ct. App. 20......
  • Hamilton v. State, No. 65A04–1412–CR–592.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • December 23, 2015
    ...ON REHEARINGBARNES, Judge.1] The State petitions for rehearing following our decision in Hamilton v. State, No. 65A04–1412–CR–592, 43 N.E.3d 628, 2015 WL 5254104 (Ind.Ct.App. Sept. 9, 2015). The State does not contend that we erred in concluding that certain vouching testimony was inadmissi......
  • Ramirez v. State, 20A-CR-1982
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • May 6, 2021
    ...how to testify; Sampson v. State, 38 N.E.3d 985, 992 (Ind. 2015), Norris, 53 N.E.3d at 521 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016), and Hamilton v. State, 43 N.E.3d 628, 633 (Ind.Ct.App. 2015), trans. denied; 2) testimony addressing whether a child was sexually abused based on observations of child abuse syndro......
  • Ramirez v. State, Court of Appeals Case No. 20A-CR-1982
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • May 6, 2021
    ...how to testify; Sampson v. State, 38 N.E.3d 985, 992 (Ind. 2015), Norris, 53 N.E.3d at 521 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016), and Hamilton v. State, 43 N.E.3d 628, 633 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015), trans. denied; 2) testimony addressing whether a child was sexually abused based on observations of child abuse sy......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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