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Newland v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

June 19, 2019

Donald Newland, Jr., Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the St. Joseph Superior Court Trial Court Cause No. 71D01-1807-F5-155 The Honorable Jane Woodward Miller, Judge

          Attorney for Appellant Scott H. Duerring South Bend, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Tiffany A. McCoy Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Riley, Judge.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         [¶1] Appellant-Defendant, Donald Newland, Jr. (Newland), appeals his conviction for burglary, a Level 5 felony, Ind. Code § 35-43-2-1.

         [¶2] We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶3] Newland presents this court with one issue on appeal, which we restate as: Whether the trial court abused its discretion by preventing Newland from cross-examining a witness on the specific facts and circumstances surrounding the witness' prior conviction.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         [¶4] On May 31, 2016, John Hensley (Hensley), the owner of the Blarney Stone Bar, in South Bend, Indiana, noted a suspicious check drawn on the business' bank account and made out to Chaz Coburn (Coburn) in the amount of $300. The check was dated May 24, 2016, and had been deposited the following day. Hensley kept his business checks-including some checks that were pre-signed-in a safe on the second floor of the bar. As Hensley did not know Coburn, he had not authorized or written a check to him. Hensley contacted his security company to check the bar's opening and closing logs. The log indicated an opening and closing on May 25, 2016, around 2:00 p.m., at a time when the bar is typically closed. When checking the footage of the security cameras for that day and time, Hensley recognized Newland entering the bar, going upstairs to the office, using the key pad to enter the office, and moments later leaving the office while holding a piece of paper.

         [¶5] Newland is married to Hensley's sister and had worked for Hensley in the bar by cleaning and working security. His employment ended in April 2016. After Newland was terminated, he did not have permission to enter the bar when Hensley was not there.

         [¶6] On July 31, 2018, the State filed an Information, charging Newland with Count I, burglary, a Level 5 felony, and Count II, theft, a Class A misdemeanor. On November 12, 2018, the trial court conducted a jury trial. During the trial, Coburn testified as a State's witness. He affirmed that Newland gave him the check, which he cashed, and then Coburn gave Newland some of the money. He also informed the jury that he voluntarily had given a false statement to an attorney to protect Newland. In this statement, Coburn admitted that he had "filled out the check and cashed it." (Defendant's Exh. B). On direct testimony, Coburn stated that he had prior convictions for theft, conversion, and auto theft, and was currently in jail. On cross-examination, Newland again asked Coburn about his prior convictions, which the State objected to as being "cumulative." (Transcript p. 68). In response, Newland argued that the State had opened the door and he was "entitled to explore that issue." (Tr. p. 68). In addressing Newland's argument, the trial court explained

[the State] merely impeached [Coburn] as the rules permit by evidence of a prior conviction. Rule 609. He absolutely followed the way in which it is to be done. And I don't understand the argument that by doing exactly what the rules allow him to do and in the way the rules allow him to do it he has opened the door to allow you to explore these prior convictions. And I am assuming, though perhaps I am wrong, you are hoping to explore them in a way that would suggest that because he was the kind of guy that ...

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