Thomas v. State, 271S52

Decision Date29 November 1972
Docket NumberNo. 271S52,271S52
Citation289 N.E.2d 508,259 Ind. 537
PartiesArthur James THOMAS, Appellant, v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee.
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

Howard S. Grimm, Jr., Grimm & Grimm, Auburn, for appellant.

Theodore L. Sendak, Atty. Gen., Mark Penden, Deputy Atty. Gen., for appellee.

HUNTER, Justice.

This is an appeal by Arthur James Thomas, appellant (defendant below), from a conviction for first degree murder. Appellant was indicted on December 30, 1969, and a subsequent jury trial resulted in a verdict of guilty. A motion to correct errors, filed by appellant, was overruled and this appeal followed.

Appellant raises several allegations of error, only one of which will be discussed below. That is whether the trial court erroneously permitted certain statements of a State's witness, which were submitted as exhibits, to be taken to the jury room during deliberations. The submission of the statements into evidence arose when the witness allegedly surprised the State by telling a different story on the stand than the State expected. He testified at the trial that appellant did not kill the decedent but that it was committed by another person whom he named. He gave substantially the same testimony under oath at the bail bond hearing prior to the trial. However, while not under oath, the witness had given two statements to the police which indicated that appellant was the killer. These statements were submitted into evidence and read to the jury as prior inconsistent statements in order to impeach the credibility of the witness. The statements were not admitted for the truth of the matter contained therein. At the conclusion of the trial, the State requested that the jury be permitted to take the exhibits with them into the jury room during their deliberations and the trial court granted the request. Appellant objected to allowing the out-of-court statements of the witness to be taken but the court overruled the objection.

What little case law we have on this subject indicates that it would be erroneous to permit such statements to be taken to the jury room during deliberations. Toohy v. Sarvis (1881), 78 Ind. 474; Nichols v. State (1879), 65 Ind. 512; Lotz v. Briggs (1875), 50 Ind. 346. These cases have led to the statement:

'It is settled law in this state that it is error to permit, over the objections of the opposite party, items of documentary evidence to be taken to their consultation room by the jury . . .. Such evidence read after the trial is concluded and the jury has retired could hardly fail to have an influence out of all proportion to its relative value as compared with other evidence not presented at that time nor in written or printed form. . . .' 1 Ewbanks Indiana Criminal Law at 319 (Symmes Ed. 1956).

Although the cases cited are old, the principle they espouse is still valid. In most jurisdictions, depositions are not permitted in the jury room for the reason that undue influence would most likely be placed on that particular testimony. See 5 Busch, Law and Trial Tactics in Jury Trials § 723 (1963). This same theory logically applies to most kinds of documentary evidence. The ALI Model Code of Evidence (1942), Rule 105, clause (m) places in the trial judge's discretion whether or not an exhibit which has been received in evidence shall be available to the jury after its retirement to deliberate upon the verdict. However, the comments to clause (m) state in part:

'An exhibit consisting of a writing which contains prior statements of a witness or the contents of his testimony or similar matter will not usually be sent to the jury room. To put such a writing where the jury could study it at their leisure would be to invite them to give undue weight to a portion of the evidence.'

The best rule is found in § 5.1 of the Standards Relating to Trial by Jury (American Bar Association Project on Standards for Criminal Justice):

'5.1 Materials to jury room.

(a) The court in its discretion may permit the jury, upon retiring for deliberation, to take to the jury room a copy of the charges against the defendant and exhibits and writings which have been received in evidence, except depositions.

(b) Among the considerations which are appropriate in the exercise of this discretion are:

(i) whether the material will aid the jury in a proper consideration of the case;

(ii) whether any party will be unduly prejudiced by submission of the material; and

(iii) whether the material may be subjected to improper use by the jury.' (our emphasis).

Since the statements of the witness in ...

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44 cases
  • State v. Pangborn
    • United States
    • Nebraska Supreme Court
    • July 26, 2013
    ...Accord, United States v. Ware, 247 F.2d 698 (7th Cir.1957); Steele v. United States, 222 F.2d 628 (5th Cir.1955); Thomas v. State, 259 Ind. 537, 289 N.E.2d 508 (1972) (superseded by rule on other grounds as stated in Litherland v. McDonnell, 796 N.E.2d 1237 (Ind.App.2003)). 59. See, e.g., U......
  • Pearson v. State, 681S156
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • November 12, 1982
    ...into evidence for impeachment only, to go to the jury room during deliberation over the defendant's objection. Thomas v. State, (1972) 259 Ind. 537, 289 N.E.2d 508. In this case, however, the complained of exhibits were originally entered in evidence for their substantive value and were not......
  • Hughes v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • June 8, 1987
    ...the trial court's discretion whether to permit the taking of documentary evidence or exhibits into the jury room. Thomas v. State (1972), 259 Ind. 537, 289 N.E.2d 508. Given the length of the trial and the amount of evidence generated, we do not believe the trial court abused its discretion......
  • Ingram v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • December 14, 1989
    ...that was admitted for impeachment purposes only to go to the jury room during deliberations. Pearson rested upon Thomas v. State (1972), 259 Ind. 537, 289 N.E.2d 508, which expressly held that "permitting writings containing prior statements of a witness to go to the jury room is an abuse o......
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