Young v. State, No. 20A04–1112–CR–699.

Docket NºNo. 20A04–1112–CR–699.
Citation980 N.E.2d 412
Case DateDecember 11, 2012
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

980 N.E.2d 412

James O. YOUNG, Appellant–Defendant,
v.
STATE of Indiana, Appellee–Plaintiff.

No. 20A04–1112–CR–699.

Court of Appeals of Indiana.

Dec. 11, 2012.


980 N.E.2d 416

Brian M. Kubicki, Jones Obenchain, LLP, South Bend, IN, Attorney for Appellant.

Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana, Gary R. Rom, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Appellee.

OPINION

MATHIAS, Judge.

Following a jury trial in Elkhart Superior Court, James Young ("Young") was found guilty of Class D felony domestic battery in the presence of a child and Class D felony strangulation. Young appeals and argues that (1) the hearsay testimony of two firefighters regarding the victim's statements to them violated his rights under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States; (2) the hearsay testimony of a police officer regarding the victim's later statements to her was inadmissible hearsay and violated his rights under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment; and (3) there was insufficient evidence to support the convictions and to prove that Young committed the offenses in a child's physical presence so as to elevate the domestic battery offense from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class D felony.

We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Facts and Procedural History

On the morning of May 28, 2011, Dulce Gomez ("Gomez"), a friend, visited Young and Blanca Medrano ("Medrano"), at the apartment that they shared. Gomez observed the couple argue and saw Young leave with the couple's two-year-old child. She did not observe any physical contact between the couple while she was there. She left the apartment around 10:30 a.m.

Around noon, Medrano walked across the street from her apartment to Station 5 of the Elkhart Fire Department. She walked in front of the fire station's door several times while holding her infant child, and then she sat down on a bench outside and cried. Acting Lieutenant, Michael Hochstetler ("Hochstetler"), approached her to inquire about what was wrong. At first, Medrano did not tell him and continued crying. Hochstetler observed "bruising on her arm and on her neck and an abrasion on her hand." Tr. p. 184. She then told Hochstetler that her husband had beaten her and left with their other child. Hochstetler asked firefighter, Gene Sanders ("Sanders"), to do a patient assessment and called dispatch for a police officer.

Medrano did not want to go to the hospital; therefore, Sanders checked her vitals and put a bandage on her hand. Sanders observed that Medrano was a petite woman and that she "had some bruising ... a small cut on her right hand ... a bruise on her—on her right side of her face near her chin ... complained of back pain and she had bruising on her neck." Id. at 201. He also noticed she was distraught, crying, and "seemed to be a little afraid of something." Id.

For about forty-five minutes before the police arrived, Medrano spoke to Hochstetler and Sanders. Medrano spoke limited English and neither Hochstetler nor Sanders spoke Spanish. They had to repeat themselves often and had to ask her to repeat herself to ensure they understood her correctly. Id. at 196. According to Hochstetler, her bruises were from her husband beating her "at their apartment across the street" about "15 minutes ago." Id. at 185, 188–89, 191. Medrano did not tell Hochstetler where the children

980 N.E.2d 417

were during the incident, and he did not ask her. Id. at 196. She also told him she did not know where Young had gone but said her two-year-old daughter was with Young. Id. Sanders did not recall her "saying that she was upset about [Young] taking the child." Id. at 211. Hochstetler testified that after roughly forty minutes, Medrano was "getting kind of antsy to leave" and when the police arrived, she "was no longer crying." Id. at 190.

Corporal Laurie Stuff ("Officer Stuff") of the Elkhart City Police Department arrived about forty-five minutes after Medrano came to the fire station. Id. at 192, 247. Officer Stuff noticed that Medrano had "redness to her neck," a bandage on her right hand, and some bruising. Id. at 234–35. Officer Stuff thought Medrano appeared "upset, she was crying, she seemed scared," and Medrano told Officer Stuff that "her husband had strangled her" until she could not breathe. Id. at 234, 241.

When Young, accompanied by his two-year-old daughter, pulled up to his and Medrano's apartment, which was within sight of the fire station, Officer Stuff left the fire station to speak with him. Young told Officer Stuff that he and his wife had gotten into a verbal argument, that she had taken $1000 from him, and that "she was trying to move and take the kids away from him." Id. at 243. Officer Stuff placed Young under arrest due to Medrano's "visible injuries" and Medrano's statements about being battered by Young. Id. at 244.

As a result of these events, the State charged Young with Class D felony strangulation1 and Class D felony domestic battery.2 The domestic battery charge was elevated from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Class D felony based on the State's allegation that Young had committed the offense in the "physical presence of a child less than sixteen (16) years of age, knowing that the child was present and might be able to see or hear the offense." Ind.Code § 35–42–2–1.3(b)(2).

At trial, Medrano did not testify and could not be found. Therefore, over Young's objections, Hochstetler, Sanders, and Officer Stuff testified in regard to Medrano's prior statements. At the conclusion of trial, the jury found Young guilty of domestic battery in the presence of a child and guilty of strangulation, both Class D felonies. Young was sentenced to concurrent terms of three years for domestic battery and three years for strangulation. Young now appeals.3

I. Admission of Firefighters' and Police Officer's Testimony

A trial court's decision to admit or exclude evidence is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Lehman v. State, 926 N.E.2d 35, 37 (Ind.Ct.App.2010), trans. denied (citing Iqbal v. State, 805 N.E.2d 401, 406 (Ind.Ct.App.2004) ). An abuse of discretion occurs if the trial court's decision is "clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances before the court, or if the court has misinterpreted the law." Boatner v. State, 934 N.E.2d 184, 186 (Ind.Ct.App.2010).

A. Medrano's Statements to the Firefighters as Admissible Excited Utterance

It is axiomatic that the firefighters' testimony concerning the statements Medrano

980 N.E.2d 418

made to them is hearsay. Hearsay is an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted and is inadmissible unless it falls under a hearsay exception. Ind. R. Evid. 801 ; see also Jenkins v. State, 725 N.E.2d 66, 68 (Ind.2000) (citing Ind. R. Evid. 802 ). However, hearsay can be admissible under one of several exceptions, including excited utterance. Ind. R. Evid. 803. An excited utterance is "[a] statement relating to a startling event or condition made while the declarant was under the stress of excitement caused by the event or condition" and is not excluded by the hearsay rule. Id. at 803(2). Although Young admits that Medrano's statements to the firefighters were excited utterances, he argues that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, admission of Medrano's statements to the firefighters nevertheless violates Young's constitutional rights under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We therefore turn to his argument in this regard.

B. The Firefighters' Testimony Considered under the Confrontation Clause

Young argues that the trial court improperly admitted Medrano's statements to the firefighters because their primary purpose was to create an out-of-court substitute for trial testimony. The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment provides in relevant part that "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right ... to be confronted with the witnesses against him." See Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 42, 124 S.Ct. 1354, 158 L.Ed.2d 177 ("We have held that this bedrock procedural guarantee applies to both federal and state prosecutions"); Lehman, 926 N.E.2d at 39. The Confrontation Clause applies to an out-of-court statement if it is testimonial, the declarant is unavailable, and the defendant had no prior opportunity to cross-examine the declarant. Crawford, 541 U.S. at 59, 124 S.Ct. 1354. The essence of the Sixth Amendment "is to protect against abuses of government officials." Lehman, 926 N.E.2d at 39 (citing Pendergrass v. State, 913 N.E.2d 703, 706 (Ind.2009) ). Neither party contests whether Medrano was unavailable or whether Young had the prior opportunity to cross-examine Medrano.

To determine whether the statements are testimonial, we look at the primary purpose of the interrogation. Turner v. State, 953 N.E.2d 1039, 1055 (Ind.2011) (citing Michigan v. Bryant, ––– U.S. ––––, 131 S.Ct. 1143, 1155, 179 L.Ed.2d 93 (2011) ). If the circumstances objectively indicate that "the primary purpose of the interrogation is to enable police assistance to meet an ongoing...

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15 practice notes
  • J.K. v. State, No. 66A03–1306–JS–220.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • April 29, 2014
    ...252, 259–60 (Ind.2013). A trial court's decision to admit or exclude evidence is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Young v. State, 980 N.E.2d 412, 417 (Ind.Ct.App.2012). A trial court abuses its discretion when its decision is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circums......
  • Gary v. State, Court of Appeals Case No. 21A-CR-2104
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • April 27, 2022
    ...is testimonial, the declarant is unavailable, and the defendant had no prior opportunity to cross-examine the declarant. Young v. State , 980 N.E.2d 412, 418 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012) (citing Crawford v. Washington , 541 U.S. 36, 59 (2004) ).To determine whether the statements are testimonial, w......
  • D.H. v. State, 19A-JV-2403
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • July 17, 2020
    ...252, 259 (Ind. 2013). A juvenile court's decision to admit or exclude evidence is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Young v. State, 980 N.E.2d 412, 417 (Ind.Ct.App. 2012). A juvenile court abuses its discretion when its decision is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and ci......
  • Chambless v. State, Court of Appeals Case No. 18A-CR-1384
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • February 12, 2019
    ...relates to the event. Id. We do not apply this test mechanically but consider the particularities of each case. Young v. State , 980 N.E.2d 412, 421 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012). "The heart of the inquiry is whether the declarant was incapable of thoughtful reflection." Id. "A declaration does not ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • J.K. v. State, No. 66A03–1306–JS–220.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • April 29, 2014
    ...252, 259–60 (Ind.2013). A trial court's decision to admit or exclude evidence is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Young v. State, 980 N.E.2d 412, 417 (Ind.Ct.App.2012). A trial court abuses its discretion when its decision is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circums......
  • Gary v. State, Court of Appeals Case No. 21A-CR-2104
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • April 27, 2022
    ...is testimonial, the declarant is unavailable, and the defendant had no prior opportunity to cross-examine the declarant. Young v. State , 980 N.E.2d 412, 418 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012) (citing Crawford v. Washington , 541 U.S. 36, 59 (2004) ).To determine whether the statements are testimonial, w......
  • D.H. v. State, 19A-JV-2403
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • July 17, 2020
    ...252, 259 (Ind. 2013). A juvenile court's decision to admit or exclude evidence is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Young v. State, 980 N.E.2d 412, 417 (Ind.Ct.App. 2012). A juvenile court abuses its discretion when its decision is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and ci......
  • Chambless v. State, Court of Appeals Case No. 18A-CR-1384
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • February 12, 2019
    ...relates to the event. Id. We do not apply this test mechanically but consider the particularities of each case. Young v. State , 980 N.E.2d 412, 421 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012). "The heart of the inquiry is whether the declarant was incapable of thoughtful reflection." Id. "A declaration does not ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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