ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE
Matthew P. Ryan Jeffrey A. Modisett
Patrick N. Ryan Attorney General of Indiana
Rosemary L. Borek
Deputy Attorney General
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
CHARLES L. SANDERS, ) ) Appellant (Defendant Below ), ) ) v. ) Cause No. 27S00-9711-CR-619 ) STATE OF INDIANA, ) ) Appellee (Plaintiff Below ). )
SHEPARD, Chief Justice.
Appellant Charles L. Sanders seeks reversal of his convictions for murdering Ruben Rodriguez and for committing battery on Jose Perez.
whether he was brandishing it at the time he was shot. (Compare R.
at 2108-09, 2154, 2176-77, 2237 with 1521, 2203.)
Another guest, Jose Perez, testified that he heard the
gunshots shortly after he arrived at the quinceanera with his
brother. He began to look for his wife, who had driven separately.
When he did not find his wife at her table or at her car, he went
to his brother's vehicle and got his gun. He testified that
someone shot at him from the passenger side of a small white car,
hitting a toe on his right foot. He returned fire. Sanders left
the party in the passenger seat of a white Hyundai driven by Rick
The State charged Sanders with the murder of Ruben Rodriguez,See footnote
the battery of Jose Perez,See footnote
and possession of a handgun without a
It sought enhancement of the handgun chargeSee footnote
Sander's prior conviction for carrying a handgun without a license.
At trial, the judge refused to give Sanders' tendered instructions on reckless homicideSee footnote 6 and criminal recklessnessSee footnote 7
because there was no evidence of recklessness, and because a theory
of recklessness was inconsistent with Sanders' claim of self-
The jury convicted Sanders of battery and possession of a
handgun without a license, but it was unable to reach a decision
about the murder charge. The court set the murder charge for
retrial and directed that trial on the enhancement take place
immediately after the murder retrial.
At the second trial, the judge denied Sanders' motion in
limine to exclude evidence on the battery of Jose Perez. Sanders
again tendered an instruction on reckless homicide, which the court
again refused. (R. at 164.) This time, the trial judge did not
state a reason for refusing the instruction, (R. at 2285), and
defense counsel did not object to the court's refusal of that
particular instruction (R. at 2289).
The second jury convicted Sanders of murder and the
enhancement on the handgun charge. The court imposed concurrent
sentences as follows: sixty-five years for the murder, eight years
for the battery, and eight years for the possession of a handgun
without a license (including the enhancement).
Indiana courts use the Wright v. State test for determining
when a trial court should instruct on a lesser included offense.
658 N.E.2d 563 (Ind. 1995). First, we determine whether the lesser
offense is either "inherently" or "factually" included in the
offense charged. Id. at 566-67; Champlain v. State, 681 N.E.2d
696, 699 (Ind. 1997). Second, if we conclude that the lesser
offense is included in the charged offense, then we ascertain
whether a serious evidentiary dispute exists as to which offense
the defendant committed. Wright, 658 N.E.2d at 567; Champlain, 681
N.E.2d at 700.
however, be factually included in the crime of battery if the
charging instrument alleges facts that "reflect a substantial risk
of bodily injury," and "show that the touching was done with a
disregard of the harm that might occur." Shoup, 570 N.E.2d at
Count Two of the information states
"Charles Lagaurdia Sanders
did knowingly touch Jose Perez in a rude, insolent, or angry
manner, to wit: by shooting him in the right foot, said touching
being committed with a deadly weapon . . . ."
(R. at 6.)
Count Two alleges that Sanders created a substantial risk of bodily
injury by claiming that Sanders shot Perez, it does not charge
Sanders with the state of mind requisite for a determination that
criminal recklessness is a factually lesser included offense of
battery in this case. Because the information does not assert that
Sanders disregarded the consequences of his actions,
recklessness was not a lesser included offense of this battery
. The trial court properly refused Sanders' criminal
each other is the level of mens rea required. Compare Ind. Code
Ann. § 35-42-1-1 (West Supp. 1998) with Ind. Code Ann. § 35-42-1-5
(West 1998); McEwen v. State, 695 N.E.2d 79 (Ind. 1998). Reckless
homicide is, therefore, an inherently included lesser offense of
murder. McEwen, 695 N.E.2d at 85; Wright, 658 N.E.2d at 567. We
next examine whether a serious evidentiary dispute exists as to
whether Sanders committed the lesser or the greater offense.
In Brown v. State,
No. 82S00-9609-CR-603, 1998 WL 2662 (Ind.
Dec. 3, 1998),
this Court set out a shifting standard of review for
appellate examination of whether a serious evidentiary dispute
exists. The standard for review of a trial court's failure to give
a requested lesser included offense instruction is "affected by the
specificity with which a defendant presents the case for the
instruction to the trial court." Id. at *13.
[W]hen the [trial] court rejects tendered instructions on lesser included offenses on their merits, but the record provides neither a finding that there is no serious evidentiary dispute nor a specific claim from the defendant as to the nature of that dispute, the standard of review is an abuse of discretion.
Id. at *16. At the trial that resulted in his murder conviction, Sanders did not provide any specific objection to the refusal of his reckless homicide instruction. (See R. 164, 2285, 2289.) We therefore review the trial court's refusal of that instruction for an abuse of discretion. The issue, then, is whether the trial court abused its discretion when it determined that there was not a serious evidentiary dispute about whether Sanders committed murder instead of reckless homicide.
Sanders himself presented evidence that, as he stood at the
bottom of the stairs, he aimed at and shot the person descending
toward him. (R. at 2108-09, 2176-77, 2237-38.) There is no
evidence that he was shooting at the crowd on the stairs at random;
rather, he shot only at Ruben Rodriguez.
There was no serious
evidentiary dispute that Sanders knowingly shot Rodriguez, because
Sanders must have known that firing directly at a person at such
close range is highly probable to result in death.
trial court appropriately refused Sanders' homicide instruction on
II. Sufficiency of the Evidence
The standard of review for a challenge to the sufficiency of
evidence to rebut a claim of self-defense is the same as the
standard for any sufficiency of the evidence challenge. We
neither reweigh the evidence nor judge the credibility of
witnesses. Instead, we consider the evidence most favorable to the
verdict and draw all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom.
Birdsong v. State, 685 N.E.2d 42 (Ind. 1997). If the evidence
and inferences provide substantial evidence of probative value to support the verdict, we affirm. Id.
"A claim of self-defense in a homicide prosecution requires,
among other things, that . . . the defendant had a reasonable fear
of death or great bodily harm." Brooks v. State, 683 N.E.2d 574,
577 (Ind. 1977). Once a defendant in a homicide prosecution claims
self-defense, the burden shifts to the state to rebut that claim.
Birdsong, 685 N.E.2d at 45. "It is only necessary for the State to
disprove one of the elements of self-defense beyond a reasonable
doubt for the defendant's claim to fail." Jordan v. State, 656
N.E.2d 816, 817 (Ind. 1995).
Although some of the trial evidence suggested that the murder
victim was advancing aggressively toward Sanders with a knife, (R.
at 2108-09, 2176-77, 2237), the evidence most favorable to the
verdict suggests otherwise. At least one witness testified that
the victim was unarmed, (R. at 1686-87); another testified that
prior to the shooting, the victim was at the top of the stairs
asking Sanders to leave the party, (R. at 1762, 1765); another
testified that the victim did begin to descend the stairs, but did
so non-aggressively, (R. at 2203); another testified that the
victim had not advanced towards Sanders at all, (R. at 1631). We
believe this evidence successfully rebuts Sanders' claim of self-
defense. We will not, therefore, disturb the jury's verdict.
III. Evidence of the Battery in the Second Trial
Sanders argues that the evidence of the battery was inadmissible at the second murder trial because he committed the battery minutes after the charged crime, and the res gestae doctrine, which he claims is the controlling law, is used to admit evidence of misconduct occurring before the charged crime. (Appellant's Br. at 48.) We have held, however, that the res gestae doctrine did not survive the adoption of the Indiana Rules of Evidence, and that an evidentiary argument must instead be
analyzed by reference to those Rules. Swanson v. State, 666 N.E.2d
397 (Ind. 1996). The applicable rule, Indiana Rule of Evidence
404(b), discusses the admissibility of "other crimes, wrongs, or
acts," (emphasis added), thereby bringing within its scope all "bad
acts," not simply prior misconduct.
Rule 404(b) provides that, although evidence of other
misconduct may not be admitted for the purpose of proving that the
defendant acted in conformity with a certain character trait it may
be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive or
intent. Evid.R. 404(b). Rule 404(b) "is designed to prevent the
jury from assessing a defendant's present guilt on the basis of his
past propensities. . . ." Hicks v. State, 690 N.E.2d 215, 218
Our analysis of admissibility under Rule 404(b) necessarily
incorporates the relevancy test of Rule 401 and the balancing test
of Rule 403. Id. at 221. First, "the court must determine that
the evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is relevant to a
matter at issue other than the defendant's propensity to commit the
charged act; and [second,] the court must balance the probative
value of the evidence against its prejudicial effect pursuant to
Rule 403." Id.
Relevance is broadly defined as probative value, and the trial court has wide discretion in ruling on the relevance of
proffered evidence. Id. at 220. The battery evidence in this case
was not offered to prove propensity to act in conformity with a
character trait for violence, but rather was offered for the "other
purpose" of proving Sanders' intent by negating his claim of self-
defense. R. at 1443; Johnson v. State, 645 N.E.2d 643, 648 (Ind.
Ct. App. 1994). Because the battery evidence makes Sanders' claim
of self-defense less likely by indicating his intent to harm the
victim, the relevancy test of Rule 401 is satisfied.
Relevant evidence is admissible, Evid.R. 402, unless its
probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair
prejudice, Evid.R. 403.See footnote
"We review this balancing act by the
trial court under an abuse of discretion standard." Hicks, 690
N.E.2d at 223. The trial court is again afforded wide latitude to
weigh probative value against prejudicial effect. Bacher v. State,
686 N.E.2d 791, 799 (Ind. 1997).
The paradigm of evidence inadmissible under Rule 404(b) "is a crime committed on another day in another place, evidence whose only apparent purpose is to prove the defendant is a person who commits crimes." Swanson, 666 N.E.2d at 398. The evidence at issue here is not of that nature. The battery occurred moments
after and just steps away from the murder. The evidence caused no unfair prejudice to Sanders, but instead provided highly probative evidence of his intent to harm. We hold that the trial court properly exercised its discretion.
Sullivan, Selby, and Boehm, JJ., concur.
Dickson, J., dissents, believing that the evidence of the
subsequent battery shooting of Perez is not relevant to
show the defendant's intent with respect to Rodriguez,
and is thus inadmissible under Evidence Rule 404(b).
Converted from WP6.1 by the Access Indiana Information Network