ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT
J. Richard Kiefer
Andrew J. Borland
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE
Karen M. Freeman-Wilson
Attorney General of Indiana
Timothy W. Beam
Deputy Attorney General
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
RYAN PRATT, )
Appellant (Defendant Below), )
v. ) Indiana Supreme Court
) Cause No. 49S00-0004-CR-265
STATE OF INDIANA, )
Appellee (Plaintiff Below). )
APPEAL FROM THE MARION SUPERIOR COURT
The Honorable Cale J. Bradford, Judge
Cause No. 49G03-9907-CF-120073
ON DIRECT APPEAL
March 27, 2001
Ryan Pratt was convicted of murder, battery, and neglect of a dependent and
sentenced to sixty years imprisonment. The victim was Pratts eleven-month-old son, Dylan
Pratt. In this direct appeal, he contends that there was insufficient evidence
to support his convictions. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
Factual and Procedural Background
Dylan was born with amniotic band syndrome which resulted in severe deformities including
an extra tissue appendage on his head, missing tissue from both eyelids, a
cleft lip and gum, joined fingers, and the loss of his left leg
below the thigh bone. In addition, he had difficulty breathing, difficulty keeping
food down, and suffered from apnea, which is defined as the transient cessation
of respiration. Merriam Websters Collegiate Dictionary 54 (10th ed. 1993). Because
of these problems, Dylan was in and out of the hospital suffering from
a failure to thrive. On each occasion, after being admitted to the
hospital, Dylan gained weight and was then released into his parents care.
On February 9, 1999, Dylan was again admitted to the hospital. Dylan
gained weight and the doctors concluded he should be placed in the Parent
Care Unit (PCU), in an effort to educate his parents in his care
including medication and feeding. An apnea monitor measured Dylans heart and respiratory
rate. An alarm sounded if Dylans heart or respiratory rate exceeded set
parameters or if the leads attached to his body became loose or unattached.
Pratt and Dylans mother, Melody Brown, alternated watching Dylan while he was
in the PCU. Pratt was alone with Dylan on the night of
Saturday, February 20, 1999. The apnea monitor registered an alert twice that
evening, before it was turned off until 7:00 a.m. Sunday morning.
On Sunday morning, Dr. Jill Mazurek examined Dylan and noted that he appeared
to be sleeping and his heartbeat and lungs were normal. As Mazurek
was leaving the room, the alarm sounded, but was silenced when Pratt adjusted
the leads. Mazurek heard the alarm a second time from the hall
and sent in a nurse to check Dylans condition. Katie Hirsch, a
nurse, entered the room as Pratt was trying to silence the alarm.
Hirsch thought Dylan looked very gray and immediately called for help. Two
doctors entered the room, noticed Dylans blue color, and started cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Dylan was transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit where Melody noticed a
puffy bruise on his head that had not been there when she left
on Friday. She reported the bruise to the staff, who in turn
alerted Dr. Melda Ackerman. Ackerman ordered a series of CT scans that
showed that Dylan had a poor gray-white brain differentiation that could be a
sign of brain swelling. This led the hospital to call Dr. Roberta
Hibbard, the director of child protection programs at the Indiana University Medical Center,
and an Indianapolis police officer. Hibbard discovered two cylindrical bruises approximately two
and one half inches apart on Dylans head, and a pattern of bruising
on Dylans back and buttocks. This bruising resulted in a laceration to
Dylans kidney. In Dylans room, the police officer found a phone that
matched the bruises on Dylans head. The officer then interviewed Brown concerning
Dylans injuries. As Brown left the interview, the officer overhead her tell
Pratt, Dont worry, I didnt tell the Detective anything.
Another doctor examined the recordings of the apnea monitor for the night of
February 20. In addition to discovering that it was turned off for
most of the night, the doctor also believed that the readings from Sunday
morning were consistent with a child with a herniated brain, suggesting that the
blows causing the bruises occurred before the monitor was reactivated Sunday morning.
Dylan died on March 5, 1999, as a result of blunt force trauma
to the head. Pratt was found guilty of murder, battery, and neglect
of a dependent. The trial court merged the battery and murder convictions
and sentenced Pratt to sixty years for the murder, to be served concurrently
with three years for neglect of a dependant.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
Pratt contends that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of murder or
When reviewing a claim of sufficiency of the evidence, we do
not reweigh the evidence or judge the credibility of witnesses. Spurlock v.
State, 675 N.E.2d 312, 314 (Ind. 1996). We look to the evidence
and the reasonable inferences therefrom that support the verdict and will affirm a
conviction if evidence of probative value exists from which a jury could find
the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. Mere presence at
the crime scene with the opportunity to commit a crime is not a
sufficient basis on which to support a conviction. Roop v. State, 730
N.E.2d 1267, 1271 (Ind. 2000); Wilson v. State, 455 N.E.2d 1120, 1122 (Ind.
1983). However, presence at the scene in connection with other circumstances tending
to show participation may be sufficient to sustain a conviction. Roop, 730
N.E.2d at 1271.
When Brown left Dylan on Saturday evening, Dylan was not injured. According
to Pratts own account, he is the only person who stayed in the
room with Dylan until Hirsch called the doctors. The undisputed medical evidence
is that Dylan died from blows to the head; the only issue is
According to Pratt, any number of nurses or doctors could have beaten Dylan.
Evidence suggesting these possibilities was presented to and rejected by the jury.
Pratt also claims that there was no eyewitness or direct testimony that
he hit Dylan or even acted in a hostile manner towards his son.
Although this is true, it is well established that circumstantial evidence will
be deemed sufficient if inferences may reasonably be drawn that enable the trier
of fact to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Bonds
v. State, 721 N.E.2d 1238, 1242 (Ind. 1999).
The evidence established that when Brown left Dylan on Saturday night, he was
not bruised. Pratt was in the room with Dylan until the nurse
called for help, and the bruising was discovered shortly thereafter. The bruising
pattern was consistent with the phone that was in the room with Pratt
During the night, while Pratt was with Dylan, the apnea
monitor was turned off. When it was reactivated, a doctor testified that
the reading was consistent with a child with a herniated brain. Although
any one of these items alone does not establish that Pratt murdered Dylan,
taken together with the reasonable inferences therefrom, there is sufficient evidence from which
a reasonable jury could have found Pratt guilty. Roop, 730 N.E.2d at
The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
SHEPARD, C.J., and DICKSON, SULLIVAN, and RUCKER, JJ., concur.
Because the trial court merged the battery conviction into the murder conviction,
here we address only the sufficiency of the evidence with regard to the
murder conviction. Cutter v. State, 725 N.E.2d 401, 407 n.2 (Ind. 2000).
Pratt also claims that there is insufficient evidence to establish that he
knowingly killed Dylan. His argument under this section focuses on the lack
of evidence that he committed the crime, not on whether Dylans injuries were
the result of engag[ing] in conduct with an awareness that the conduct has
a high probability of resulting in death. Jackson v. State, 728 N.E.2d
147, 153 (Ind. 2000). Because he does not present a cogent argument
in support of this contention, it is waived. Former Ind.Appellate Rule 8.3(A)7
(now App.R. 46(A)8).
iting Samek v. State, 688 N.E.2d 1286, 1288 (Ind. Ct. App. 1997),
Pratt claims that the State failed to properly preserve the telephone for fingerprint
and tissue analysis and that this may violate a defendants due process rights.
In a situation such as this, where the evidence is merely potentially
useful evidence, the defendant must show that the States failure to preserve the
evidence was committed in bad faith in order to prove a violation of
his due process rights. Id. Pratt has not done so here.