Dennis A. Vowels
Attorneys for Appellee
Jeffrey A. Modisett
Attorney General of Indiana
Sarah E. Scherrer
Deputy Attorney General
Appellant (Defendant below),
STATE OF INDIANA,
Appellee (Plaintiff below).
) Supreme Court No.
October 19, 2000
Defendant Clarence A. Martin, Jr., appeals his conviction for murder on grounds that
the trial court made three errors concerning the admission of evidence. We
affirm, concluding that (1) evidence of a prior police traffic stop did not
violate the proscription on prior bad act evidence, (2) a witnesss prior inconsistent
statement was admitted for purposes of impeachment and so was not hearsay, and
(3) evidence of another witnesss juvenile record was properly excluded.
This Court has jurisdiction over this direct appeal because the longest single sentence exceeds fifty years. Ind. Const. art. VII, § 4; Ind. Appellate Rule 4(A)(7).
Reeds autopsy showed gunshot wounds to the lower abdomen, buttocks, lower chest, left
jaw, chin and mouth. He had died from the accumulation of blood
in his chest cavity.
The State charged Defendant with Murder
a class B felony.
Both Defendant and co-defendant Jason Small were tried together before a jury on
June 12, 1998. The jury convicted Defendant of murder but found him
not guilty of robbery. On July 9, 1998, the trial court sentenced
Defendant to sixty years.
Additional facts will be provided as necessary.
Generally, evidence of unrelated wrongful conduct is inadmissible. Ind. Evidence Rule 404(b).
This rule is designed to prevent the jury from inferring present guilt
from prior wrongful conduct. See Barker v. State, 695 N.E.2d 925, 929-30
(Ind. 1998); Evans v. State, 643 N.E.2d 877, 883 (Ind. 1994).
We do not find the prior conduct presented to the jury here, a
response to a question asked during a routine traffic stop, constituted a prior
bad act from which the jury might draw a forbidden inference about Defendants
character or guilt. No reference was made to the purpose of the
stop or to the arrest and filing of charges that resulted. Furthermore,
the officers testimony was offered to link Defendant to an address.
As such, the testimony was directly relevant to an issue at trial.
The trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the officers testimony.
Jessica Compton lived across the street from her son and daughter-in-law, James and
Sonya Steverson. James Steverson was a close friend of Defendant, and Defendant
was at his house on the evening of Reeds death. The day
after Reed was shot, Compton voluntarily went to police headquarters and spoke to
Detective Taylor, who was assigned to investigate the death of Reed. Based
on the information obtained from Compton, Detective Taylor searched the Steverson home.
Detective Taylor testified that during the search, Sonya told him that if he
was unsuccessful in locating the murder weapon in her home, he should search
the basement of a vacant house with a wheelchair ramp located at a
three-way stop sign on Culver Street. Based on this information, Detective Taylor
and three other officers searched a home matching this description, located at 1414
Culver Street, and discovered two guns and ammunition in the basement.
On June 9, 1998, the State deposed both James and Sonya Steverson.
rson denied telling his wife that Defendant told him where the murder
weapons were hidden. Sonya Steverson denied having any recollection that she told
officers that they should search the house at 1414 Culver Street for the
guns. Defendant filed a motion in limine to prohibit the State from
introducing testimony from any officer identifying Sonya Steverson as the source of the
police investigation information without first conducting a hearing outside the presence of the
Prior to Sonya Steversons testimony at trial, the trial court conducted such a
hearing. Sonya Steverson repeatedly denied that she told Detective Taylor to search
for the guns in the basement of a vacant house on Culver Street.
The State argued that it had to question her in the presence
of the jury regarding this statement because if she denied it, Detective Taylor
would be called to impeach her with her prior inconsistent statement to him.
Defendant argued that Sonya Steversons alleged out-of-court statement offered by Detective Taylor constituted
hearsay and denied him his right to a fair trial. The trial
court overruled Defendants objection on grounds that the out-of-court statement was offered as
a matter of impeachment.
After the jury returned to the courtroom, the State proceeded with its direct examin ation of Sonya Steverson. She testified that she observed her husband talking to Defendant the morning after the shooting. She also acknowledged that police officers came to search her house but denied telling Detective Taylor to search the house on Culver Street for the guns. The next day Detective Taylor testified that during the search of the Steverson house, Sonya Steverson had pulled him aside and told him that if the gun was not located in her house to search the basement of a vacant house at a three[-way] stop sign with a wheel chair ramp on Culver for the gun. (R. at 1375.) Detective Taylor also testified that the murder weapons were ultimately located at the home on Culver street. The trial court overruled Defendants timely objections. No jury admonition was requested of or given by the trial court to limit the use of Detective Taylors testimony.
If the State offered Sonya Steversons statement to challenge her credibility, it is
not hearsay. It is well established that a prior inconsistent statement may
be used to impeach a witness. See Birdsong v. State, 685 N.E.2d
42, 46 (Ind. 1997); Humphrey v. State, 680 N.E.2d 836, 839 (Ind. 1997)
(citing 13B Robert Lowell Miller, Jr., Indiana Practice: Courtroom Handbook on Indiana Evidence
176 (1996-97 ed.)); Lewis v. State, 451 N.E.2d 50, 54 (Ind. 1983); LaBine
v.State, 447 N.E.2d 592, 595 (Ind. 1983); Davis v. State, 456 N.E.2d 405,
410 (Ind. 1983); Stutzman v. State, 250 Ind. 467, 235 N.E.2d 186 (1968).
And when a prior inconsistent statement is used to impeach a witness,
it is not hearsay because the statement is not used to prove the
truth of the matter asserted.
See Birdsong, 685 N.E.2d at
46; 13 Robert Lowell Miller, Jr., Indiana Practice § 801.409, at 522-23 (2d
Defendant cites Mason v. State, 689 N.E.2d 1233 (Ind. 1997). In Mason, where a police officer testified as to an out-of-court statement, we reversed the conviction because there was no reasonable assurance that the jury did not receive testimony as evidence of the truth of the matter asserted. Id. at 1236. But in that case, the police officer testified as to information supplied him by a confidential informant who was never identified. The statement was not used for impeachment at all; it was clearly hearsay.
Defendants underlying contention here is that the admission of the prior inconsistent statement
might have allowed the jury wrongly to consider the statement as substantive evidence.
This concern does not render the statement inadmissible. If Defendant believed
there was a danger that the jury would use the statement as substantive
evidence linking him to the crime, then it was incumbent upon Defendant to
request that the jury be admonished to the effect that the statement was
only to be used to judge the witnesss credibility.
Humphrey, 680 N.E.2d
at 839 (quoting Ind. Evidence Rule 105); Lewis, 451 N.E.2d at 54;
Head v. State, 443 N.E.2d 44, 58 (Ind. 1982). In fact, during
the hearing on this issue, the State reminded Defendant that he could request
an admonition to limit the admissibility of the statement to impeachment only.
Defendant made no such request.
The State was entitled to offer the prior inconsistent statement to challenge the
ibility of Sonya Steverson. Because a prior inconsistent statement is admissible for
impeachment purposes, the trial court properly admitted the prior inconsistent statement on this
Whatever danger there was of a circumstantial inference of guilt from the statements
made to impeach Sonya Steverson, this was not the sole basis the jury
had for finding Defe
ndant guilty of murder. Eyewitness Nicole Phipps placed Defendant
at the scene of the crime.
Jessica Compton voluntarily approached police officials
to inform them that she had reason to believe, based on Defendants actions
and various incriminating statements, that he was involved in the murder.
the amount of evidence in support of Defendants guilt, the impact on the
jury of this statement was sufficiently minor so as not to affect the
substantial rights of Defendant.
Finally, it is well settled that the erroneous admission of evidence does not
require reversal if other evidence having the same probative value is admitted without
objection or contradiction.
Johnson v. State, 472 N.E.2d 892, 902 (Ind. 1985).
Here, evidence linking Defendant to the address where the weapons were found
was already properly admitted under
Rule 801(d)(2)(A) (A statement made by a party
that is offered against that party is not hearsay and thus admissible.), when
Officer Hilsmeyer testified that Defendant gave 1414 Culver as his address during a
routine traffic stop. See also supra Part I.
Accordingly, any error
would have been harmless.
Despite this rule, Defendant argues on appeal that the trial court should have
admitted Moodys juvenile record to afford Defendant the opportunity (1) to uncover Moodys
ntial bias and prejudice, and (2) to challenge his credibility given that he
was adjudicated a delinquent for a crime of dishonesty.
Davis, the Supreme Court held that the defendant, who was convicted of
grand larceny and burglary, was denied his constitutional right to confront witnesses when
the trial court prohibited him from cross-examining a key State witness to show
his probation status following an adjudication of juvenile delinquency.
Id. at 317-20.
The seventeen-year-old witness identified the defendant as one of the men he
encountered and spoke to standing next to a car near the scene of
the burglary. Id. at 310. As evidence of the witnesss possible
bias and prejudice and because the witness was on probation at the time
of these events, defense counsel in Davis sought to capitalize on the witnesss
fear of being considered a suspect in this crime, as well as his
fear that unfavorable testimony might affect his probationary status. Id. at 311.
However, unlike the defendant in
Davis who explained how the witnesss juvenile adjudication
would be used to impeach the witness, Defendant failed to offer any such
explanation to the trial court. A party is limited to the specific
grounds argued to the trial court and cannot assert new bases for admissibility
for the first time on appeal. Taylor v. State, 710 N.E.2d 921,
923 (Ind. 1999). Because Defendant did not propose the evidence on the
basis that it tended to demonstrate that Moody was testifying in exchange for
favorable treatment by the State, he has waived this claim. See Ogle
v. State, 698 N.E.2d 1146, 1151 (Ind. 1998) (holding that the defendant may
not state one ground at trial and another on appeal).
First, contrary to Defendants contention, and unlike the defendant in
Davis, Moodys testimony
did not provide the sole and crucial link in the States case against
There is some authority that where the juvenile is the only
witness on whose testimony the State depends for the conviction of the defendant,
juvenile records should be admitted. Jones v. State, 249 Ind. 621, 627,
232 N.E.2d 587, 590 (1968) (Jackson, J. concurring). Here, however, Moody was
not the States only identification witness. Nicole Phipps was the States principal
identification witness because she provided eyewitness testimony to the murder.
Davis, the witness had provided deceptive testimony by denying that law
enforcement officials had ever questioned him. This testimony went unchallenged due to
the trial courts exclusion of the juvenile record. Id. at 313-14.
Conversely, there was nothing deceptive about Moodys testimony regarding his juvenile adjudication or
encounters with law-enforcement officials. On direct examination, Moody explained that his earlier
statement to Detective Meriweather was probably more reliable than his trial testimony because
he had been locked up for a long time since giving it.
Not only did Moody volunteer that he had been placed in a juvenile
facility, but he also voluntarily differentiated his juvenile facility from that of the
Indiana Boys School.
Finally, we have held that where a party seeks to impeach a witness with evidence of prior juvenile delinquency findings, a general challenge to the witnesss character, without more, is not enough. Engle v. State, 506 N.E.2d 3, 5 (Ind. 1987) (holding that the trial court properly excluded inquiry into a witnesss juvenile record where the defendant attempted to impeach the general credibility of the witness with the finding of delinquency for particular acts, in this case, theft) (emphasis added); Roland v. State, 501 N.E.2d 1034, 1037 (Ind. 1986) (holding that although the trial court improperly permitted reference to the witnesss juvenile adjudication based on theft for impeachment purposes, there was no prejudicial effect requiring reversal); cf. Terrell v. State, 507 N.E.2d 633, 635 (Ind. Ct. App. 1987) (holding that the trial court did not err in admitting juvenile records where counsel stated in his opening statement that the witness had no record when, in actuality, the witness had nine juvenile adjudications for burglary). Here, Defendant proposed no alternative purpose at trial and only offered Moodys juvenile record as a general attack on his credibility. This is insufficient.
The goal in impeachment is to discredit a witness so as to challenge
the witnesss b
elievability. This is done to afford the jury, the sole
judge of the credibility of a witness, a basis from which to make
an informed judgment as to the weight to place on the witnesss testimony.
This goal was not frustrated in this case. Moodys direct testimony
revealed his detention in a juvenile facility and provided the jury a basis
from which to infer that Moody had been adjudicated a juvenile delinquent.
This, coupled with Moodys inconsistent testimony, presented the jury with ample evidence with
which to assess and weigh his credibility. A further attack on Moodys
general credibility by merely disclosing his juvenile adjudication for possession of stolen property
was unnecessary for a fair determination of Defendants guilt or innocence. The
trial court did not err in excluded the witnesss juvenile record.
SHEPARD, C.J., and DICKSON, BOEHM, and RUCKER, JJ., concur.