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Appeals court reverses teen's attempted murder conviction

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the conviction of a teenager who was sentenced to 37 years in prison for attempted murder for a shooting that happened in June 2018.

Byron Harris was 15-years-old when he allegedly shot Trestepfone Pryor at the playground of an apartment complex in Elkhart County.

Pryor suffered gunshot wounds to his right leg.

Harris was charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery in juvenile court but was waived to adult court and charged with attempted murder.

Before his trial in June 2019, when he was 16-years-old, the state requested an order that would prevent Harris' mother from being present at the court proceedings, except during her own testimony.

Harris objected, but the trial court overruled the objection. The suspect's mother was never called as a witness in the trial.

Harris was found guilty of attempted murder and was sentenced to 37 years in prison with 5 years suspended to probation.

Harris appealed, alleging the court denied him due process by preventing his mother from attending the trial.

The appellate court considered whether a parent of a juvenile waived to adult court is subject to a separation of witness order. In general, most witnesses are excluded from viewing the testimony of other witnesses.

One of the exclusions, which would allow a witness to attend the proceedings, is a person whose presence is essential to presenting the defense.

The appeals court found Harris' mother should not have been excluded because, even though the juvenile defendant was in adult court, his mother was considered an essential party.

The court found they were unable to quantify the impact of preventing Harris from having his mother at trial and could not say the error was harmless.

The court reversed the conviction and remanded the case for further proceedings.

One justice dissented from the opinion.

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