ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE
Terry A. White Jeffrey A. Modisett
Barbara Coyle Williams Attorney General of Indiana
Randi E. Froug
Deputy Attorney General
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
RYAN MICHAEL SPECHT, ) ) Appellant (Defendant Below ), ) ) v. ) Cause No. 82S00-9810-CR-612 ) STATE OF INDIANA, ) ) Appellee (Plaintiff Below ). )
August 17, 2000
SHEPARD, Chief Justice.
Since adopting the Indiana Rules of Evidence six years ago, we have not considered whether a witness may be impeached with evidence of a guilty plea to a crime for which judgment has not yet been rendered. We conclude that the answer is still yes.
Schmitt v. State, 730 N.E.2d 147 (Ind. 2000). A jury found Schmitt
guilty of murder, attempted murder, and robbery, and we affirmed his convictions.
In the present case, we turn to appellant Ryan Michael Spechts contentions of
error aimed at his convictions for felony murder, robbery, and attempted murder.
The court had not yet entered judgment when the present case commenced on
August 3, 1998. At trial, the court denied Spechts motion in limine
to prohibit evidence of the plea, and overruled Spechts objection to the States
use of the plea to impeach him.
Indiana Rule of Evidence 609(a) provides that proof that a witness has been
convicted of a crime may be admitted for the purpose of attacking that
witnesss credibility if the crime involves dishonesty or if it is a crime
catalogued in 609(a)(1). The list in Rule 609(a)(1) includes the crime to
which Specht had pled guilty, confinement.
The issue, then, is whether a guilty plea not yet reduced to judgment constituted a conviction for impeachment purposes. Prior to the adoption of the Indiana Rules of Evidence, we held that it did, stating, when there has been a plea of guilty it is a conviction of crime and the presumption of innocence no longer follows the defendant. . . . The fact that final judgment was not rendered does not alter the fact that he stands convicted of the crime to which he has entered a plea. McDaniel v. State, 268 Ind. 380, 383, 375 N.E.2d 228, 230 (1978) (citing State v. Redman, 183 Ind. 332, 109 N.E. 184 (1915)).
While the Rules of Evidence generally superceded previously existing common law, Rule 609(a)
preserved, rather than replaced, our caselaw regarding impeachment. In proposing that this
Court adopt Rule 609(a), our committee said, Rejecting both the [Federal Rules of
Evidence] and the [Uniform Rules of Evidence], this section preserves prior Indiana Law.
Indiana Supreme Court Committee on the Adoption of the Indiana Rules of
Evidence, Proposed Indiana Rules of Evidence [and Commentary] 40 (May 4, 1993).
Mr. Spechts lawyers have suggested that our 1978 opinion in McDaniel deployed older
caselaw, developed for another purpose, to decide the question at issue. Nevertheless,
decide it we did, and we retained existing Indiana law in adopting the
Rules of Evidence.
McDaniel is still good law. Spechts motion in limine and subsequent objection
to the States impeachment on this basis were properly denied and overruled.
That potential jurors were exposed to press coverage does not satisfy this test.
Elsten, 698 N.E.2d at 294; see also Ind. Code Ann. § 35-37-1-5(b)
(West 1998). Instead, a defendant must prove that the jurors were unable
to disregard preconceived notions of guilt and render a verdict based on the
evidence. Elsten, 698 N.E.2d at 294.
Judge Heldt questioned each juror extensively and permitted only those who said they
could disregard pretrial publicity to remain in the venire.
See footnote He excused jurors
who were unsure about their impartiality.See footnote Finally, once the jurors were selected,
the judge again asked them whether they had read anything about th[e] case
in the newspaper, see[n] anything on television, seen publicity at all . .
. about th[e] case, to which they all answered no. (R. at
Specht has not directed our attention to any evidence in the record showing
that jurors were unable to be impartial due to the pretrial media coverage.
As we have held in many prior decisions, this . . .
is fatal to his claim.
Barnes v. State, 693 N.E.2d 520, 525
(Ind. 1998). The trial court did not abuse its discretion when it
denied Spechts motion for change of venue.