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Homicide conviction affirmed based on harmless error

State v. Eduardo Ivanez, 2013AP1901-CR, 2/26/15,  District 1 (not recommended for publication); click here for briefs

Ivanez appealed his conviction for 1st-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse on the grounds that statements he made to the police should have been suppressed and the admission of those statements impelled him to testify that he killed the victim in self-defense, a dubious trial strategy. The court of appeals assumed, without deciding, that the trial court had erred but affirmed under the harmless error doctrine.

Decisions based on harmless error usually depend on case-specific facts, and this one is no exception. After a very long, 9-page, recitation of the facts and history of this case, the court of appeals’ decision really boiled down to these 2 paragraphs:

The evidence of Ivanez’s guilt, apart from Ivanez’s statements and his trial testimony, which was the only evidence supporting his claim of self-defense and which benefitted him more than the State, was overwhelming.  Given the strength of the evidence that Ivanez had stabbed and strangled Romero, and the lack of evidence, other than Ivanez’s statements and testimony, as to why Romero might have attacked Ivanez and caused him to kill Romero in self-defense, we conclude that a jury would have found Ivanez guilty absent any error from the admission of Ivanez’s statements and his trial testimony.   Slip op. ¶20

Accordingly, we conclude that even if the April 21 statements had been excluded and even if Ivanez had not testified at trial, the jury would have convicted Ivanez of the charged counts.  It follows that the circuit court’s failure to grant Ivanez’s motion to suppress constituted harmless error. Slip op. ¶21


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