ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE
Hilary Bowe Oakes Karen M. Freeman-Wilson
Indianapolis, Indiana Attorney General of Indiana
James B. Martin
Deputy Attorney General
INDIANA SUPREME COURT
KEITH SCRUGGS, )
v. ) 49S00-9908-CR-457
STATE OF INDIANA, )
APPEAL FROM THE MARION SUPERIOR COURT
The Honorable Jane Magnus-Stinson
Cause No. 49G06-9806-CF-092690
On Direct Appeal
October 31, 2000
The defendant, Keith Scruggs, was convicted of two counts of murder
See footnote and one
count of carrying a handgun without a licenseSee footnote for the June 1, 1998,
slaying of Cheron Lucas and Londa Oliver. He received a total sentence
of 120 years. Concluding that his convictions were based on sufficient evidence
and that his sentence was not manifestly unreasonable, we affirm.
The defendant contends that there was not sufficient evidence of probative value to
prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he was the person who shot Lucas
and Oliver. He argues that the State's witnesses were not sufficiently credible
to support the convictions.
In reviewing a claim of insufficient evidence, we will affirm the conviction unless,
considering only the evidence and reasonable inferences favorable to the judgment, and neither
reweighing the evidence nor judging the credibility of the witnesses, we conclude that
no reasonable fact-finder could find the elements of the crime proven beyond a
Jenkins v. State, 726 N.E.2d 268, 270 (Ind. 2000); Webster
v. State, 699 N.E.2d 266, 268 (Ind. 1998); Hodge v. State, 688 N.E.2d
1246, 1247-48 (Ind. 1997).
The following facts are favorable to the judgment. The defendant with his
friend and girlfriend went to another friends house. The defendant entered the
residence which was occupied by several people. Upon recognizing one of the
occupants, Lucas, as a man who had robbed him five or six months
before, the defendant pulled out a revolver. One person asked the defendant
if "this was a joke," to which the defendant replied, "this is no
[expletive deleted] joke." Record at 225. Lucas ran into a bedroom and
shut the door. As the defendant tried to open the door, Lucas
tried to hold it closed. The defendant finally forced the door open
and shots were fired as he entered the bedroom. Lucas died from
multiple gunshot wounds. Oliver, another occupant of the room, was killed by
a single bullet wound to her head. No witnesses testified as to
who fired the shots, but there was no evidence that anyone else in
the bedroom had a gun other than the defendant.
The defendant argues that the inference that he was the shooter was merely
speculation and conjecture and that the State's witnesses were not sufficiently credible to
support the convictions. We disagree. From the evidence and its reasonable
inferences, a reasonable jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant
knowingly or intentionally killed Lucas and Oliver.
The defendant also contends his sentences of sixty years for each murder to
run consecutively are manifestly unreasonable. Sentencing is normally left to the sound
discretion of the trial court. Elmore v. State, 657 N.E.2d 1216, 1219
(Ind. 1995). Although this Court is empowered to review and revise criminal
sentences, we will not do so unless the sentence is "'manifestly unreasonable in
light of the nature of the offense and the character of the offender.'"
Prowell v. State, 687 N.E.2d 563, 568 (Ind. 1997)(quoting Ind. Appellate Rule
17(B)), cert. denied 525 U.S. 841, 119 S.Ct. 104, 142 L.Ed.2d 83 (1998).
We have emphasized that "'the issue is not whether in our judgment
the sentence is unreasonable, but whether it is clearly, plainly, and obviously so.'"
Thacker v. State, 709 N.E.2d 3, 10 (Ind. 1999)(quoting Brown v. State,
698 N.E.2d 779, 783-84 (Ind. 1998)); Prowell, 687 N.E.2d at 568.
Both the nature of the offense and the character of the offender support
the enhanced, consecutive sentences in this case. In cases involving multiple killings,
the imposition of consecutive sentences is appropriate. Noojin v. State, 730 N.E.2d
672, 679 (Ind. 2000). The defendant without provocation shot two unarmed people,
continuing in his course of action even after repeated pleas from his friends
to stop. Also, the defendant has both a juvenile and an adult
criminal record, and the defendant was on probation at the time of the
killings. His sentence of 120 years is not manifestly unreasonable.
We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
SHEPARD, C.J., and BOEHM and RUCKER, JJ., concur. SULLIVAN, J., concurs in
Ind. Code § 35-42-1-1.
Ind. Code § 35-47-2-1.
Included in the defendant's argument asserting manifest unreasonableness are references to
provisions of the Indiana Constitution requiring penalties to be proportional to the nature
of the offense and requiring the penal code to be founded on principles
of reformation and not vindictive justice. Ind. Const. art. I, §§ 16,
18. Although the defendant does not present these as independent appellate claims,
we find that they would be unavailing. A sentence may be found
not proportional when a criminal penalty is not graduated and proportioned to the
nature of an offense. Dunlop v. State, 724 N.E.2d 592, 597 (Ind.
2000); Conner v. State, 626 N.E.2d 803, 806 (Ind. 1993); Hollars v. State,
259 Ind. 229, 236, 286 N.E.2d 166, 170 (Ind. 1972)). Given the
circumstances presented in this case, this sentence of 120 years imprisonment is not
disproportional to the nature of the offenses committed. With respect to the
need to seek reformation and avoid vindictive justice, we have repeatedly stated that
Section 18 applies only to the penal code as a whole and not
to individual sentences. Henson v. State, 707 N.E.2d 792, 796 (Ind. 1999).