Appeals court upholds Todd's rulings on Harris case
Wednesday, August 14, 2013 11:00 AM
The Indiana Court of Appeals on Tuesday affirmed the Jefferson Circuit Court rulings regarding double jeopardy and statute of limitations in a rape and sexual misconduct case.
Prosecutors charged Gregory A. Harris, 26, with two charges of sexual misconduct with a minor on Dec. 23, 2009. One of those charges was amended to rape in 2011. The accusations were that Harris forced a 14-year-old girl to perform oral sex, and later had sex with the girl.
A jury acquitted Harris of the rape charge in September 2011, but was unable to reach a verdict on the sexual misconduct charge, resulting in the court declaring a mistrial.
Within a week after the trial ended, prosecutors attempted to amend the sexual misconduct charge to include the words "deviate sexual conduct." Judge Ted Todd denied that request.
Harris filed a motion to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds, which Todd also denied. The appeal focuses on the denial of those two motions.
Harris argued that since the jury acquitted him of rape, prosecutors could not refile charges against him for sexual misconduct because the same evidence was used to prove both counts.
The Court of Appeals disagreed. In order to acquit Harris of rape, the jury did not necessarily have to conclude prosecutors failure to prove the underlying offense of sexual misconduct.
"The jury may have acquitted Harris of rape because it found a lack of force; the acquittal does not necessarily mean that the jury found that sexual intercourse did not occur. Had it done so, the jury would have acquitted Harris on the sexual misconduct charge," Judge Terry Crone wrote in the appeal. Chief Judge Margret Robb and Judge Ezra Friedlander both concurred with Crone's opinion.
Prosecutors also appealed the decision based on Todd's decision not to allow a change in the language in the charge.
The sexual misconduct charge is a Class C felony, which carries with it a statute of limitations of five years that prosecutors can file charges. By the time this newly amended charge was brought before the court, it had been six years since the alleged offense.
"The proposed amendment here is not merely a correction of information or an alternate theory of culpability, as the State suggests. Rather, the proposed amendment constitutes a matter of substance and includes a new and additional offense. Thus the amendment carries the weight and practical effect of a new or refiled charge," Crone wrote.
"The statute of limitations cannot be circumvented because of the procedural availability of amending informations or the happenstance of mistrial."