Attorney for Appellant
Attorneys for Appellee
Jeffrey A. Modisett
Attorney General of Indiana
Thomas D. Perkins
Deputy Attorney General
INDIANA SUPREME COURT
Appellant (Defendant below),
STATE OF INDIANA,
Appellee (Plaintiff below ).
) Supreme Court No.
APPEAL FROM THE MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT
The Honorable Cale Bradford, Judge
Cause No. 49G03-9807-CF-123641
ON DIRECT APPEAL
June 28, 2001
Defendant Ronald Williams was convicted of murder for cracking a mans skull with
a metal pole. We find the force of the blow itself provided
sufficient evidence that the defendant knowingly killed the victim. We also agree
with the trial court that a witnesss prior drug use and past work
as a police informant were not relevant and that the prosecutors failure to
disclose certain police notes until trial did not require reversal in these cicumstances.
The facts most favorable to the verdict indicate that on May 29, 1998,
Matthew McGarvey went with a friend to buy crack cocaine on the near
eastside of Indianapolis. McGarvey got out of the vehicle and approached a
crowd of people. At the same time, Adair Smith was on the
same street buying drugs. She saw McGarvey beaten by Defendant Ronald Williams
and several other men. She saw Defendant pick up a black metal
pole and hit McGarvey once in the head, knocking him to the ground.
The impact was so severe that Smith heard a cracking sound
when he was hit. After McGarvey was knocked to the ground, the
group of men continued to beat and kick him. McGarvey was hospitalized
for eight days before he died. His skull was fractured and he
died as a result of the head injury.
Defendant was convicted of Murder.
Defendant also pled guilty to being a
Defendant contends that the States evidence was insufficient to support his convi
murder. See Appellants Br. at 10. He argues that [t]he State
did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Williams was aware of a
high probability that he would kill McGarvey by striking him one time in
the head with a metal pole. Id. at 13.
In reviewing a sufficiency of the evidence claim, the Court neither reweighs the
evidence nor assesses the credibility of the witnesses. See Garland v.
State, 719 N.E.2d 1236, 1238 (Ind. 1999). We look to the
evidence most favorable to the verdict and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom. See
Sanders v. State, 704 N.E.2d 119, 123 (Ind. 1999). We will affirm
the conviction if there is probative evidence from which a reasonable jury could
have found Defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. See Brown v. State,
720 N.E.2d 1157, 1158 (Ind. 1999).
To convict a defendant of murder, the State must prove that the defendant
knowingly or intentionally killed the victim. Ind. Code § 35-42-1-1. To
knowingly kill requires, at a minimum, an awareness on the part of the
defendant of a high probability that death will r
esult from his actions.
See Storey v. State, 552 N.E.2d 477, 483 (Ind. 1990). In deciding
whether a defendant was aware of the high probability that his actions would
result in the death of a victim, the jury may consider the duration
and brutality of a defendants actions, and the relative strengths and sizes of
a defendant and victim. See Childers v. State, 719 N.E.2d 1227, 1229
(Ind. 1999); Nunn v. State, 601 N.E.2d 334, 339 (Ind. 1992).
We find that the evidence was sufficient to find Defendant guilty of murder.
ding to the evidence, Defendant struck McGarvey once with a metal pole.
The degree of force was equivalent to a fall from a height
greater than ten to twelve feet. The impact caused the victims brain
to swell and a portion of the brain shifted to the left side
of the head.
In his defense, Defendant cites
Nunn, where the Court held that there was
insufficient evidence to support a conviction for murder where the defendant struck the
victim once with his hands from behind and she died a short time
later. Id. at 338-39. Defendant claims that this case is similar
since the evidence here suggests that Defendant only struck the victim once.
Nunn, however, the Court also stated that an intent to kill may
be inferred from a single blow. Id. at 334. In Nunn
we stated, [the defendant] struck [the victim] once with his hands, and ...
the cause of death, a severed vertebral artery, is an unusual injury.
Id. Here, in contrast to Nunn, the State presented evidence of a
vicious blow to the head with a hard object. The injury was
not uncommon for that kind of impact. A jury could reasonably infer
from this evidence that Defendant knowingly killed the victim.
Defendant contends that the court abused its discretion in excluding evidence that [a
witness] previously worked for the State as a confidential informant while she was
using drugs. Appellants Br. at 15.
At trial, Adair Smith identified Defendant as one of McGarveys attackers. She
ified that she had gone to 21st and LaSalle Streets to buy
drugs on May 29, 1998, the night of the attack. There she
saw the men beating McGarvey and saw Defendant strike McGarvey with a metal
pole, causing McGarvey to fall to the ground. And she saw the
other men kick and punch McGarvey when he was down. Smith also
testified at trial that she smoked crack and marijuana on May 29 and
Smith did not go to the police initially. Her boyfriend had agreed
to go to speak with the police about a different homicide and she
accompanied him. She testified that she was worried that her boyfriend was
in trouble. She told Detective Prater that she knew about a beating
at 21st and LaSalle and she gave a statement and identified the attackers.
At a pretrial deposition, Smith testified that she had previously worked as a
ntial drug informant for the Lawrence Police in return for not filing prostitution
charges against her. She worked for them for about two and a
half years, starting in 1995. Smith testified that she smoked crack while
working as an informant and claimed that her police supervisor knew she was
using drugs. The trial court granted the States motion in limine to
exclude evidence of Smiths prior drug use. The court, however, allowed defense
counsel to ask about her drug use at the time of the crime.
Defendant argues that the court should have allowed evidence of Smiths past drug
use and her work as an informant, claiming it was relevant to evaluating
her credibility. Appellants Br. at 19. Smith did testify that she
was afraid that her boyfriend was in trouble, and that she had worked
as an informant in the past in order to avoid prostitution charges.
Defendant maintains that this information suggests that Smith would do what was necessary
to get the police to not [sic] pursue other criminal charges. Appellants
Br. at 20. Defe
ndant sought to argue that Smith was a biased
witness because she did what she believed was necessary to get [her boyfriend]
off the hook by providing information about the instant homicide. Id.
The trial court has wide latitude in ruling on the admissibility of evidence
and in d
etermining its relevancy. Kremer v. State, 514 N.E.2d 1068, 1073
(Ind. 1987). We review a trial courts ruling as to relevance for
an abuse of discretion. See Anderson v. State, 718 N.E.2d 1101, 1103
(Ind. 1999); Willsey v. State, 698 N.E.2d 784, 793 (Ind. 1998). And
even if the trial court erroneously excludes admissible evidence, we will not reverse
a defendants conviction unless his substantial rights have been affected. See Fleener
v. State, 656 N.E.2d 1140, 1142 (Ind. 1995); Schwestak v. State, 674 N.E.2d
962, 965 (Ind. 1996).
The trial court stated that Smiths prior drug use and work as an
informant was not related to this case. Evidence is not relevant unless
it has a tendency to make the existence of any fact that is
of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable
than it would be without the evidence.
See Ind. Evidence Rule 401;
Jackson v. State, 712 N.E.2d 986, 988 (Ind. 1999).
We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by prohibiting
testimony of Smiths prior drug use. Defendant was allowed to, and did,
cross-examine Smith about her drug use on the day of the killing and
at the time of the trial. The trial court only prohi
from asking Smith about her prior drug use. Defendant does not attempt
to argue that the prior drug use goes to Smiths character but rather
to her credibility. He says that [i]t is more likely that she
lied to her case officers about her continuing drug use. Appellants Br.
at 19. But Defendant did not and does not present any evidence
that she lied to her case officers or anyone else about her past
drug use. Even had there been evidence that she had lied, it
appears that such evidence would have been inadmissible under Evid. R. 608(b) as
constituting extrinsic acts used to prove credibility.
We also conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by
prohibiting the te
stimony of Smiths work as an informant in the past in
exchange for the police dropping charges. Defendant contends that her testimony in
this case was similarly motivatedthat she testified to get her boyfriend out of
trouble. Id. at 19-20. Although Smith said in her pretrial deposition
that she thought her boyfriend was in trouble, she only referred to the
time that she gave her initial statement to the police. Defendant did
not and does not cite any evidence showing that Smiths boyfriend was in
any danger of being prosecuted or that she remained in fear of him
being prosecuted. The trial court permitted Defendant to question Smith about ulterior
motives and bias in her testimony; Smith was cross examined about her fear
that her boyfriend was in trouble. The trial court also allowed questions
pertaining to any incentives she was receiving for testifying. While there may
be situations where prior service as a police informant would be relevant to
evaluating the credibility of a witness, the connection here is simply too attenuated
to find that the trial court abused its discretion.
Defendant contends that the court abused its discretion in denying Williams motion to
dismiss when the State had not timely complied with a discovery order.
Appellants Br. at 20.
During the second day of trial, Defendant became aware of evidence that the
utor had not disclosed. A States witness, Detective Mark Prater, had 100
to 150 pages of handwritten notes of which Defendant was not aware even
though the prosecutors office had a copy of the notes.
Defendant had requested production of all statements, notations, memoranda or r
by any witnesses whom the State of Indiana intends to call during the
trial of this cause. Under the Marion Superior Court Division Rule 7(2),
the State was required to disclose [t]he names and last known addresses of
persons whom the State intends to call as witnesses, with their relevant written
or recorded statements, and any material or information within its possession that tends
to negate the guilt of the accused.
In the States notices of discovery compliance, the State listed Prater on its
witness list, but never disclosed the existence of the notes. The notes
revealed that the police d
epartment or victims assistance provided money to Smith to
stay at a motel one or two nights when her electricity was shut
off. Defendant moved for dismissal based on the new information, arguing that
evidence that Smith was receiving consideration for her trial testimony was impeachment evidence
relevant to the jurys assessment of her credibility. See Appellants Br. at
25. The trial court denied Defendants motion, finding that Defendant suffered no
The States failure to disclose the notes was a violation of the trial
courts discovery order.
See Goodner v. State, 714 N.E.2d 638, 642-3 (Ind.
1999); Williams v. State, 714 N.E.2d 644, 649 (Ind. 1999). But trial
courts are given wide discretionary latitude in discovery matters and their rulings will
be given deference on appeal. Absent clear error and resulting prejudice, the
trial courts determination of violations and sanctions will be affirmed.
(citations omitted). There is no indication that Defendant suffered prejudice by the
States failure to disclose Praters notes. The notes were produced and Prater
was cross-examined about them. Smith was also available to testify about the
hotel and any other benefits she received from the State. Under these
circumstances, we affirm the trial courts denial of Defendants motion to dismiss.
The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
SHEPARD, C.J., and DICKSON, BOEHM, and RUCKER, JJ., concur.
Ind. Code § 35-42-1-1 (1993).
Id. § 35-50-2-8 (Supp. 1996).
Although the trial court did not find any misconduct on the
part of any of the lawyers, we remain deeply concerned about discovery violations
by the State. Goodner, 714 N.E.2d at 642 (We cannot continue to tolerate
late inning surprises later justified in the name of harmless error. Continued
abuses of this sort may require a prophylactic rule requiring reversal.). This
case was tried prior to our decision in Goodner.