Appeals panel rejects man’s challenge of child molestation conviction


 Dave Stafford for

A man convicted of Level 1 felony child molesting and sentenced to 48 years in prison failed to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that his victim’s medical report was improperly admitted or that her testimony was incredibly dubious.

The appellate panel affirmed the Elkhart Superior Court’s conviction in Ryan Baxter v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-2050.

Baxter was arrested after his 4-year-old stepdaughter, A.W., told her grandmother that he had molested her during a noncustodial visit with her mother and Baxter, her stepfather. The grandmother told A.W.’s biological and custodial father, after which “A.W. underwent a sexual assault examination,” Judge Melissa May wrote for the panel. “The nurse, Nancy Grant, determined A.W. had an injury consistent with prior penile penetration that was healing.”

After being charged with three counts of Level 1 child molesting, an Elkhart County jury convicted Baxter of one count, prompting his appeal. Baxter argued the medical report was inadmissible hearsay because it contained A.W.’s identification of Baxter as the culprit.

“The identification of Baxter as the perpetrator was relevant and necessary in order for Grant to know if she could discharge A.W. into Father’s custody without A.W. being subjected to more abuse after she was released,” May wrote. “Because the identification of Baxter as the perpetrator was necessary to ensure A.W.’s safety, the court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the medical report.”

Likewise, the COA rejected Baxter’s argument that A.W.’s testimony should have been stricken under the incredible dubiosity rule, and therefore the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.

“Incredible dubiosity is not available to invalidate A.W.’s testimony because her testimony is not inherently contradictory and it is corroborated by other witness testimony. At trial, Grant, a sexual assault nurse examiner, testified A.W. sustained injury to her hymen that was consistent with penile penetration. Grant’s testimony provides circumstantial evidence in support of A.W.’s testimony and invalidates Baxter’s incredible dubiosity argument,” May wrote, citing to Moore v. State, 27 N.E.3d 749, 760 (Ind. 2015), which rejected that rule when testimony is supported by circumstantial evidence.