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Protected Person Statute

A.R.M. v. State (Ind. Ct. App. June 7, 2012)

In this case, the Court of Appeals addressed the Protected Person Statute, Indiana Code section 35-37-6-6, which governs, among other things, the admission of child testimony by videotape in sex crime cases.

A.R.M. (13 years old) molested S.M. (7 years old) while S.M. and his mother were living with A.R.M.’s family. S.M.’s mother reported the abuse to personnel at the Y.W.C.A., who in turn reported the abuse to CASIE (the South Bend Child Abuse Services Investigation and Education). S.M. gave a statement to CASIE. The State filed a petition to have A.R.M. adjudged as a delinquent for having committing what would be the crime of child molesting if committed by an adult. At the juvenile court’s fact-finding hearing, S.M. testified that he could not remember the incident. The juvenile court then admitted S.M.’s taped statement to CASIE and found that the State had proven its allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. The juvenile court then held a dispositional hearing and adjudicated A.R.M to be a delinquent. The only issue on appeal was the admissibility of S.M.’s statement to CASIE.

The Court first addressed wither A.R.M. waived his challenge for failing to include S.M.’s taped statement in the appellate record. The Court recognized that A.R.M.’s procedural arguments did not depend on the tape’s contents and that therefore A.R.M. had not waived his procedural arguments. But A.R.M. did waive any arguments based on the content of the tape. This aspect of the Court’s holding highlights the importance of including all relevant parts of the trial court record in the Appendix given to the Court of Appeals. Appellate Practitioners must take time to make sure all relevant evidence, pleadings, and transcripts are provided to the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals then concluded that the record before it did not show that the taped testimony was unreliable. The Court based its conclusion on the lack of evidence that S.M. was coached and on the CASIE interviewer’s testimony regarding her training and experience regarding child interviews.

In sum, this case provides some good general information regarding the Protected Person Statute, but is primarily noteworthy for its illustration of the pitfalls caused by failing to include evidence in the appellate record.

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