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Beville v. State

Supreme Court of Indiana

March 17, 2017

Marvin Beville, Appellant (Defendant),
State of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the Vigo Superior Court 6, No. 84D06-1411-F6-2855 The Honorable Michael J. Lewis, Judge

         On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 84A01-1507-CR-890

          Attorney for Appellant Cara Schaefer Wieneke Wieneke Law Office, LLC Brooklyn, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Chandra K. Hein Jodi Kathryn Stein Deputy Attorneys General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Rush, Chief Justice.

         The State told Marvin Beville it had a video recording of a controlled drug buy between him and a confidential informant. But while the State offered Beville's public defender the opportunity to review the recording in the prosecutor's office, it would not allow Beville himself to see the video. Beville accordingly requested a copy of the recording, to no avail. His counsel then filed a motion to compel and argued that Beville's personal review of the video was fundamental to preparing a defense. The State responded that the informer's privilege entitled it to withhold disclosing the recording. The trial court agreed with the State, and Beville took this interlocutory appeal.

         We acknowledge that when the informer's privilege is properly invoked, the defendant bears the burden to demonstrate an exception to the privilege-otherwise, disclosure of the requested discovery is not warranted. But it is incumbent on the State to establish that the informer's privilege applies in the first instance. We conclude the State failed to make that threshold showing because it is unclear whether the video would actually reveal the informant's identity. And even if the State had made the threshold showing, we find that Beville carried his burden of proving an exception to the privilege because his review of the video was relevant and helpful to his defense. We thus reverse the trial court.

         Facts and Procedural History

         The State accused Marvin Beville of selling marijuana to a confidential informant ("CI") and charged Beville with dealing in marijuana and maintaining a common nuisance. At some point, the State informed Beville it had a video recording of a controlled buy between him and the CI.

         At the initial hearing, the trial court ordered discovery pursuant to a local rule. Vigo Cty. LR84-CR00-5 (2014). Under that rule, a defendant must specifically request a copy of video evidence; the State must provide the recording for examination and copying at "reasonable" times and places; and the trial court may deny disclosure of a CI's identity if it finds a "paramount interest in non-disclosure." Id.

         Shortly after the initial hearing, the State provided discovery. The discovery did not contain the identity of the CI or the recording of the alleged controlled buy, but the State offered to let Beville's public defender review the video at the prosecutor's office.

         Beville's counsel then attempted, multiple times, to obtain a copy of the video to review with Beville. He first filed a motion asking for copies of, among other items, all "video tapes . . . which the State of Indiana may use in the prosecution of this matter." The trial court ordered the State to comply with the discovery request. After not receiving a copy of the recording, Beville's counsel filed a motion to compel, asking for "any video of alleged hand to hand buy with the confidential informant."

         On the day of the motion to compel hearing, the defense filed an application to obtain a copy of the video. The application asserted that the State intended to use the recording as evidence at trial but would not allow defense counsel to have a copy to review with Beville. At the hearing, defense counsel emphasized that the trial was going to begin in eight days, that the State would likely use the video in lieu of the CI's testimony, and that having a copy of the video was therefore "fundamental to our preparation." He also argued that the video may not reveal the CI's identity because the camera was most likely pointed at the target of the investigation-not at the CI.

         In response, the State claimed that the informer's privilege, and the general policies underlying it, allowed withholding the identity of the CI and any item that would identify the CI. The State elaborated that the privilege ensures individuals come forward with information to assist law enforcement and that "disclosure would only serve to make the CI the target for reprisal from those upset by the investigation." The State also asserted that the CI's identity would, in fact, be revealed through the audio and video of the controlled buy.

         The trial court denied Beville's motion to compel but did not issue written findings of fact or conclusions of law. On interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court in a split ...

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