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Ward v. State

Indiana Supreme Court
50 N.E.3d 752 (2016)


Facts

On April 10, 2013, after Dee Ward (defendant) dropped off his girlfriend, J.M., at her mother and stepfather’s house. J.M.’s stepfather called 911 to report that J.M. had been beaten. When the paramedic arrived at the scene, she found J.M. lying in the fetal position and crying. J.M.’s body was covered with bruises, and she was in severe pain. When the paramedic asked J.M. what happened, J.M. told the paramedic that Ward had beaten her with a belt. The paramedic transported J.M. to the hospital to be evaluated for internal injuries. In the emergency room, a forensic nurse examined J.M. and took J.M.’s medical history. When the nurse asked J.M. what happened to her, J.M. told the nurse that Ward had struck her with a belt. The nurse took precautions to make sure that J.M. would be discharged to a safe location. The nurse also gave J.M. referrals to domestic-violence support organizations and recommended counseling. Ward was charged with battering J.M. When J.M. failed to appear for depositions or testify at trial, the State of Indiana (plaintiff) introduced J.M.’s statements to the paramedic and nurse into evidence. The paramedic explained during testimony that she asked J.M. what happened and who hurt her so that the paramedic could properly treat J.M. and determine whether she was in further danger from her attacker. The nurse testified that the hospital’s violence-victim-treatment protocol required the nurse to determine who caused the injuries and how they occurred, as well as to formulate a plan for J.M.’s continued safety after discharge. Ward objected to the introduction of J.M.’s statements, arguing that they were testimonial hearsay that violated his constitutional rights to confront the witnesses against him. The trial court admitted the statements over Ward’s objection. Ward was convicted, and he appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Rush, C.J.)

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