ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE:
GEOFFREY A. RIVERS JEFFREY A. MODISETT
JOSEPH P. HUNTER Attorney General of Indiana
PRISCILLA J. FOSSUM
Deputy Attorney General
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
NANETTE LUCKHART, )
) Supreme Court Cause Number
v. ) 18S00-9905-CR-276
STATE OF INDIANA, )
APPEAL FROM THE DELAWARE SUPERIOR COURT
The Honorable Robert L. Barnet, Judge
Cause No. 18D01-9807-CF-62
ON DIRECT APPEAL
October 4, 2000
Nanette Luckhart appeals her conviction for murder committed during perpetration of a robbery
as a result of the stabbing death of her seventy-five-year-old neighbor Paul Gann.
In this direct appeal Luckhart claims the trial court erred by admitting
her confession into evidence, and that the evidence is not sufficient to sustain
the conviction. We disagree and therefore affirm.
The facts most favorable to the verdict show that Luckhart was a friend
of Jeff Gann. Jeff lived with his father Paul Gann in the same
Muncie neighborhood as Luckhart. The record shows that Luckhart was aware that
Paul kept money in his house because Jeff told her he had stolen
money from his father numerous times to purchase drugs and beer. Around
3:00 a.m. on July 3, 1998, Luckhart left the trailer she and her
five children shared with her mother-in-law and invited Jeff to go with her
to purchase crack cocaine in Whitely, Indiana. Luckharts husband Eric was in
jail at the time. Luckhart purchased the cocaine from Yolanda Cobb, who
had sold drugs to Luckhart on prior occasions. Luckhart then drove to
an isolated rural area where she and Jeff smoked crack cocaine. When
Jeff got out of the car to answer natures call, Luckhart drove away
Luckhart returned to Whitely approximately two hours later and purchased more crack cocaine
from Cobb. Cobb noticed that Luckhart appeared very nervous and was not
wearing any shoes. Luckhart told Cobb that she got the money to
purchase the drugs from a friend and that she mightve killed the old
mother f***er. R. at 665.
In the meantime, after hitchhiking back to Muncie, Jeff arrived home around 6:00
a.m. and discovered that his father was dead. Paul had been struck
in the head with a ceramic lamp and stabbed at least seven times,
with fatal wounds to his neck and chest. Jeff ran to Luckharts
trailer and accused her of killing his father.
Later that day, police questioned Luckhart about Pauls murder, and she denied any
involvement. One week later, police contacted Luckhart and asked her to talk
with them again about Pauls murder. Luckhart voluntarily went to the police
station around 8:00 p.m. on July 9, 1998. After executing a waiver
of rights, police interrogated Luckhart for approximately five hours, all of which was
recorded on videotape. Initially, Luckhart again denied any involvement in Pauls murder,
claiming that she had been in her trailer all night. However, Luckhart
gradually changed her story as police confronted her with incriminating evidence, some of
which was true and some of which was fabricated. Ultimately, Luckhart told
police that she took Cobb to Pauls house in order to steal money
and, when Paul unexpectedly awoke, Luckhart smashed a lamp on his head and
assisted Cobb in stabbing him. Luckhart also told police that she and
Cobb took $100 from Pauls home. Cobb was never considered a
suspect in Pauls murder.
At trial, Luckhart changed her story once again, testifying that she had spent
part of the night smoking crack cocaine in her car with Jeff and
that Jeff had confessed to her that he killed his father. The
jury convicted Luckhart of felony murder and voluntary manslaughter. The trial court sentenced
Luckhart to sixty-five years on the felony murder conviction. No sentence was
imposed on the voluntary manslaughter conviction. This direct appeal followed. Additional
facts are set forth below where relevant.
Luckhart first asserts the trial court erred by admitting into evidence her videotaped
confession. Specifically, Luckhart contends that her confession was involuntary because it was
the product of police deception and she was under the influence of crack
cocaine. When a defendant challenges the admissibility of her confession, the State
must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the confession was given voluntarily.
Carter v. State, 730 N.E.2d 155, 157 (Ind. 2000); Schmitt v. State, 730
N.E.2d 147, 148 (Ind. 2000).
See footnote The voluntariness of a confession is
determined from the totality of the circumstances.
Berry v. State, 703 N.E.2d
154, 157 (Ind. 1998). The totality of the circumstances test focuses on
the entire interrogation, not on any single act by police or condition of
the suspect. Light v. State, 547 N.E.2d 1073, 1079 (Ind. 1989).
We review the record for evidence of inducement by way of violence, threats,
promises, or other improper influences. Berry, 703 N.E.2d at 157. Although
deception on the part of police is not conclusive, Light, 547 N.E.2d at
1079 (citing Frazier v. Cupp, 394 U.S. 731 (1969)), it does weigh heavily
against the voluntariness of the defendants confession. Heavrin v. State, 675 N.E.2d
1075, 1080 (Ind. 1996). In the end, we must judge whether the
police conduct in relation to the specific suspect was overbearing. Light, 547
N.E.2d at 1079. We do not re-weigh the evidence, but rather determine
whether there is substantial evidence to support the trial courts findings. Berry,
703 N.E.2d at 157. Here, the trial court issued an
order denying Luckharts motion to suppress her videotaped confession, which includes the following
On the evening of July 9th, 1998, and the early morning of July
10th, 1998, Defendant was interrogated by members of the Muncie Police Department following
execution of a valid waiver of rights. The interrogation lasted approximately five
. . . .
Defendant voluntarily presented herself for an interview at the Muncie Police Department at
approximately 8:00 p.m. on July 9th, 1998. Defendant was presented a written
waiver of rights which was read to her and then she was given
time to read the document herself. Following this procedure, Defendant signed the
waiver. Sergeant Steve Bell detected no evidence of alcohol use or drug
use. Defendant was able to carry on a lucid conversation and appeared
to be in control of all her faculties. Defendant was able to
walk without assistance and her coordination did not appear to be impaired.
According to Sergeant Bell, Defendant appeared to be of average intelligence. Defendant
was granted rest breaks and Defendant did not ask to cease the interview.
No physical threats were ever made. Defendants responses to the officers
were sequential and coherent. The officers offered no legal advice to Defendant.
Defendant had been involved in the criminal justice system on a prior
occasion and was not untutored in the conduct of a police investigation.II.
4. During the course of the interrogation, as least two (2) factual misrepresentations
were made to Defendant by police interrogators. Defendant was advised the police
were in possession of a fingerprint linked to Defendant and that two (2)
witnesses had seen the Defendant at the subject premises. Neither of these
representations was true. These representations were made, at least in part, to
judge Defendants reaction to this information. No evidence exists of any additional
substantial misrepresentations made by the police. No evidence exists of any promises
made regarding leniency or special treatment or other inducements.
R. at 106-108. The trial court then concluded beyond a reasonable doubt
that Defendants statement was made freely and voluntarily and that Defendants will was
not improperly overborn by the police. . . . Although unfortunate, the
two (2) misrepresentations made by the police to this Defendant did not substantially
impact this Defendants will to resist. R. at 111.
After independently reviewing the videotapes and transcript, we find that the police undoubtedly
used deception and trickery in their interrogation of Luckhart. The officers even
admitted as much. For example, Sergeant Bell testified at trial that it
is a common police technique to bluff suspects during interrogations. R. at
854. Lieutenant Steven Stanley testified that the purpose of this technique is
to judge a suspects reaction to the bluff. R. at 973.
Although we do not condone such deceptive police conduct,
see Light, 547 N.E.2d
at 1079, we cannot say that under the totality of the circumstances Luckharts
confession was involuntary. Luckhart knew she was a suspect in Pauls murder,
selected a time convenient for her to give a statement to police, voluntarily
went to the police station to give a statement,
signed a waiver of her Miranda rights before giving the statement, and knew
that the interrogation was going to be videotaped. See Heavrin, 675 N.E.2d
at 1081 (signing a
waiver of rights form provides some indication that a defendants confession was made
voluntarily). Although the interrogation lasted five hours, police gave Luckhart two breaks
and allowed her to smoke during the interrogation, even giving her cigarettes.
See Light, 547 N.E.2d at 1079 (noting that in most cases where confessions
are held involuntary, the suspects are interrogated for days, not hours). Further,
Luckhart never indicated that she wanted to stop the interrogation, and she never
asked for an attorney. More importantly, police did not use violence or
threaten Luckhart at any point during the interrogation. The police deception did
not render Luckharts videotaped confession involuntary.
As for Luckharts assertion that her confession was involuntary because she was under
the influence of crack cocaine during the interrogation, we have held that a
confession may be given knowingly and voluntarily, notwithstanding voluntary intoxication. Ellis v.
State, 707 N.E.2d 797, 802 (Ind. 1999). We will deem a defendants
confession incompetent only when she is so intoxicated that it renders her not
conscious of what she is doing or produces a state of mania.
Id. Intoxication to a lesser degree only goes to the weight to
be given to the confession, not its admissibility. Id.
Sergeant Bell testified at trial that during the interrogation Luckhart did not exhibit
any signs of drug or alcohol use, was oriented as to time and
place, answered questions in a logical sequence, and was able to walk without
assistance. R. at 859. Additionally, the trial court observed that during
the interrogation Luckhart was able to carry on a lucid conversation, appeared to
be in control of her faculties, and was able to walk without assistance.
R. at 107. Luckharts alleged intoxication did not render her confession
For her last allegation of error Luckhart contends the evidence was not sufficient
to support the conviction. Luckhart seems to acknowledge that a confession standing
alone is sufficient to sustain a conviction. See Morrison v. State, 516
N.E.2d 14, 16 (Ind. 1987). She complains, however, that her confession was
the product of police suggesting the answers that she ultimately gave and that
there are other reasonable theories of who may have murdered Paul, including his
son Jeff. Luckharts contention amounts to an invitation for this Court to
reweigh the evidence. We decline. Luckhart presented her alternative theories to
the jury, and it rejected them. In reviewing a sufficiency of the
evidence claim, we do not reweigh the evidence or assess the credibility of
the witnesses. Brown v. State, 720 N.E.2d 1157, 1158 (Ind. 1999).
Rather, we look to the evidence and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom that support
the verdict and will affirm the conviction if there is probative evidence from
which a reasonable jury could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable
The evidence as recited in the facts section of this opinion is sufficient
to sustain Luckharts conviction. We also note that Luckhart provided information to
the police that was never made public during the investigation. She told
police precisely the location and positioning of Pauls body, the type of knife
used and the location of wounds, that Paul was
struck on the head with a lamp, and that the telephone cord had
been torn from the wall. R.
at 991-1024. We reject, as apparently did the jury, the notion that
the police supplied this information to Luckhart.
SHEPARD, C.J., and DICKSON, SULLIVAN and BOEHM, JJ., concur.
We note that the federal constitution requires the State to prove
only by a preponderance of the evidence that a defendants confession was voluntarily
Smith v. State, 689 N.E.2d 1238, 1246-47 n.11 (Ind. 1997) (citing
Colorado v. Conelly, 479 U.S. 157, 167-69 (1986); Lego v. Twomey, 404 U.S.
477, 488-89 (1972)). However, in Indiana we require the State to prove
the voluntariness of a confession beyond a reasonable doubt, and trial courts are
bound to apply this standard when evaluating such claims.
Luckhart takes issue with the trial courts findings that police made
only two misrepresentations. According to Luckhart, the police told fourteen separate lies.
Most of the alleged misrepresentations do not merit discussion. Illustrative of Luckharts
claims is the assertion police lied to her when they told her several
people had given sworn testimony that they saw Luckharts car leave the night
of the murder. Amended Brief of Appellant at 10 (emphasis in original).
The record shows the police interviewed only two neighbors who saw Luckharts
car leave the night of the murder, and their statements were not sworn.
R. at 471-72. One of the additional misrepresentations is only slightly
more substantial. Officer Bradshaw told Luckhart that her burglary of Pauls home three
nights before the murder was not technically a crime because Paul never reported
it. This certainly is not true. Indeed Luckhart was charged with
burglary in this case but the jury acquitted her. In any event,
we do not agree that this additional misrepresentation affected Luckharts will to resist.