23 N.E.3d 8 (Ind. 2015), 48S02-1404-CR-297, Rosales v. State

Docket Nº48S02-1404-CR-297
Citation23 N.E.3d 8
Opinion JudgeDavid, Justice.
Party NameRUBEN ROSALES, Appellant (Defendant below), v. STATE OF INDIANA, Appellee (Plaintiff below)
AttorneyATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: John B. Steinhart, Lafayette, Indiana. ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana, George P. Sherman, Eric P. Babbs, Deputy Attorneys General, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Judge PanelDavid, Justice. Rush, C.J., Dickson, Rucker, and Massa, J.J., concur. Rush, C.J., Dickson, Rucker, and Massa, J.J., concur.
Case DateJanuary 15, 2015
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

Page 8

23 N.E.3d 8 (Ind. 2015)

RUBEN ROSALES, Appellant (Defendant below),

v.

STATE OF INDIANA, Appellee (Plaintiff below)

No. 48S02-1404-CR-297

Supreme Court of Indiana

January 15, 2015

Appeal from the Madison County Circuit Court, No. 48C03-1207-FA-1240. The Honorable Thomas Newman, Jr., Judge.

On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 48A02-1303-CR-229.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: John B. Steinhart, Lafayette, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana, George P. Sherman, Eric P. Babbs, Deputy Attorneys General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

David, Justice. Rush, C.J., Dickson, Rucker, and Massa, J.J., concur.

OPINION

Page 9

David, Justice.

A jury instruction setting forth the elements of attempted murder must inform the jury that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, with specific intent to kill the victim, engaged in conduct constituting a substantial step toward such killing. Spradlin v. State, 569 N.E.2d 948, 950 (Ind. 1991). Similarly, when attempted murder is premised on accomplice liability, the jury is required to be instructed that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted with specific intent to kill. Hopkins v. State, 759 N.E.2d 633, 637 (Ind. 2001) (citing Bethel v. State, 730 N.E.2d 1242, 1246 (Ind. 2000)). But in this case, although the trial court properly instructed Ruben Rosales's jury on the elements of attempted murder, it failed to inform them that the State had to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Rosales acted with specific intent to kill when he knowingly or intentionally aided, induced, or caused another person to attempt murder. This error was compounded during closing arguments when the State repeatedly insisted that specific intent to kill was not required for accomplice liability to attempted murder. Subsequently, the jury found Rosales guilty of attempted murder, but the general verdict form made it impossible to determine whether direct or accomplice liability formed the basis of their collective decision.

On appeal, Rosales argues that the trial court committed fundamental error by giving

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an instruction permitting the jury to convict him of attempted murder as an accomplice without the specific intent to kill. Our careful review of our case law leads us to conclude that under the circumstances of this case Rosales is correct.

Facts and Procedural History

In June of 2012, eighteen-year-old Rosales was a member of the Latin Kings gang in Anderson, Indiana. Fifteen-year-old Sergio Torres was affiliated with rival gang Serrano 13, which had been harassing Rosales's girlfriend by making threats against her and vandalizing her house. On the afternoon of June 27, 2012, Torres was walking down an alley when a van carrying Rosales--who is Hispanic--and Donovan Ball--who is Caucasian and was a close associate of the Latin Kings--pulled in behind him. Ball, unarmed, exited the van. As Torres faced Ball, he felt a sharp blow to his head and lost consciousness. When he regained consciousness, he observed Ball and Rosales running back to the van, which then sped away.

Nearby witness Melamekia Watson would later testify that she observed a Caucasian man and a Latino man carrying a metal baseball bat exit the van and run down the alley. According to Watson, the same men ran out of the alley " like they [were] on a mission" and got back into the van. (Tr. at 268-69.) The Latino man was still carrying the bat.

When police arrived at the scene, Torres was bleeding profusely from lacerations on his head and slipping in and out of consciousness. He was transported to an Anderson hospital, where Nurse Cheryl Reese and Doctor Myron Bielski observed what they considered to be life-threatening injuries: multiple skull fractures, a subdural hematoma, and bleeding of the brain. Torres underwent brain surgery but continued to suffer headaches as a result of the trauma.

The following day, Rosales, appearing nervous, told his aunt Michelle Rosales that he needed to leave for Chicago because he " didn't want to see himself get in anymore trouble." (Tr. at 325-26.) She drove him to an Indianapolis bus station and purchased a ticket for him. When the cashier asked who was traveling, Ruben Rosales gave a fake name.

On her way home, Michelle Rosales called a mutual acquaintance and inquired about the cause of her nephew's behavior. After the acquaintance informed her of the attack, she called police, who arrested Ruben Rosales at the bus station.

The State then charged Rosales with class A felony attempted murder1 and class D felony criminal gang participation.2 At his jury trial and during final instructions, the trial court instructed the jury on attempted murder: " the crime of attempted murder is defined as follows: a person attempts to commit a murder when, acting with the specific intent to kill another person, he engages in conduct that constitutes a substantial step toward kill[ing] that person." (Tr. at 557.) Though Rosales was not charged as an accomplice to attempted murder and his attempted murder charge was not explicitly premised on a theory of accomplice liability, the trial court also instructed the jury on accomplice liability as follows: " [a] person who knowingly or intentionally aids, induces or causes another person to commit an offense commits that offense . . . [a]n accomplice is liable for thè

Page 11

acts of the principal which, even if not a part of their original plan, are probable and natural consequences thereof." (Tr. at 563.)

During closing arguments, the State argued both theories of liability. As we discuss in detail below, the State repeatedly relied on the incorrect accomplice liability instruction. For example, the State argued that it " only has to prove that one person intended for death to occur." (Tr. at 518.) Additionally, the verdict form did not distinguish between Rosales's potential direct liability or accomplice liability for the attempted murder of Torres.

Rosales's jury found him guilty as charged, and the trial court sentenced him to an aggregate term of fifty years executed in the Indiana Department of Correction. He then appealed his attempted murder conviction, claiming that the trial court's inaccurate jury instruction on accomplice liability as a basis for attempted murder constituted fundamental error. According to Rosales, under Hopkins, the trial court was required to instruct the jury that it must find that he had the specific intent to kill Torres when he knowingly or intentionally aided, induced, or caused another, presumably Ball, to attempt to murder Torres. 759 N.E.2d at 637.

A divided panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court. Rosales v. State, 3 N.E.3d 1014, 1019, (Ind.Ct.App. 2014) (Crone, J., dissenting). We granted Rosales's petition to transfer,3 thereby vacating the opinion below pursuant to Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A), in order to resolve an issue of first impression before this Court: whether an accomplice liability instruction was fundamentally erroneous for not stating that an accomplice to attempted murder must have the specific intent to kill when he or she knowingly or intentionally aids, induces, or causes another to attempt murder, where it is unknown if the defendant was convicted of attempted murder on the basis of accomplice liability or direct liability.

Standard of Review

As " [t]he manner of instructing a jury lies largely within the discretion of the trial court," this Court reverses a trial court's jury instruction " only for an abuse of discretion." Henson v. State, 786 N.E.2d 274, 277 (Ind. 2003). But because Rosales did not object to the accomplice liability instruction given by the trial court or tender his own accomplice liability instruction, he waived his right to appeal the instruction provided to the jury. Hopkins, 759 N.E.2d at 638. Consequently, we " will only reverse the trial court if the trial court committed error that was fundamental," Id., in instructing the jury on the elements of accomplice liability when attempted murder is charged. Fundamental error " is a substantial, blatant violation of due process" that " must be so prejudicial to the rights of a defendant as to make a fair trial impossible." Id. (internal citations omitted).

Discussion

I. Jury Instructions on either Direct or Accomplice Liability for Attempted Murder

First, we look to our precedent on instructing juries when a defendant is tried, under either a theory of direct liability or accomplice liability, for attempted murder. In Spradlin, we determined that a jury instruction

which purports to set forth the elements which must be proven in order to convict of the crime of attempted murder must

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inform the jury that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, with intent to kill the victim, engaged in conduct which was a substantial step toward such killing.

569 N.E.2d at 950 (emphasis added). This requirement that the State establish the defendant's specific intent to kill in order to prove him or her directly liable for attempted murder stems from " the stringent penalties for attempted murder and the ambiguity often involved in its proof." Hopkins, 759 N.E.2d at 637. Thus, we have " singled out attempted murder for special treatment" in the form of the State's heightened mens rea showing. Id.

The State's need to demonstrate the defendant's specific intent to kill remains when the State seeks a conviction for attempted murder under an accomplice liability theory. Specifically, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt: " (1) that the accomplice, acting with the specific intent to kill, took a substantial step toward the commission of murder, and (2) that the defendant, acting with the specific intent that the killing occur, knowingly or intentionally aided, induced, or caused the accomplice...

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34 practice notes
  • 72 N.E.3d 502 (Ind.App. 2017), 28A04-1603-CR-634, Miller v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 17 Marzo 2017
    ...instructed that a " knowing" mens rea could be sufficient to support such a conviction. See, e.g., Rosales v. State, 23 N.E.3d 8, 15 (Ind. 2015); Guyton v. State, 771 N.E.2d 1141, 1144 (Ind. 2002); Metcalfe v. State, 715 N.E.2d 1236, 1237 (Ind. 1999); Beas......
  • 30 N.E.3d 41 (Ind.App. 2015), 21A04-1410-CR-458, Bryson Tyrone St. v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 22 Abril 2015
    ...of due process that must be so prejudicial to the rights of a defendant as to make a fair trial impossible." Rosales v. State, 23 N.E.3d 8, 11 (Ind. 2015) (quotations omitted).. [¶23] There is no question that it was error for the jury to hear of Street's irrelevant prior convictions. ......
  • Jackson v. State, 100517 INCA, 82A04-1609-CR-2074
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 5 Octubre 2017
    ...that "must be so prejudicial to the rights of a defendant as to make a fair trial impossible." Rosales v. State, 23 N.E.3d 8, 11 (Ind. 2015) (citations omitted). [¶16] The State's original charge of the criminal gang enhancement tracked the statutory langu......
  • Hardison v. State, 022916 INCA, 22A01-1504-CR-273
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 29 Febrero 2016
    ...of due process that must be so prejudicial to the rights of a defendant as to make a fair trial impossible." Rosales v. State, 23 N.E.3d 8, 11 (Ind. 2015) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). B. Challenged Testimony [8] Hardison contends the trial court committed fundamenta......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
34 cases
  • 72 N.E.3d 502 (Ind.App. 2017), 28A04-1603-CR-634, Miller v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 17 Marzo 2017
    ...instructed that a " knowing" mens rea could be sufficient to support such a conviction. See, e.g., Rosales v. State, 23 N.E.3d 8, 15 (Ind. 2015); Guyton v. State, 771 N.E.2d 1141, 1144 (Ind. 2002); Metcalfe v. State, 715 N.E.2d 1236, 1237 (Ind. 1999); Beas......
  • 30 N.E.3d 41 (Ind.App. 2015), 21A04-1410-CR-458, Bryson Tyrone St. v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 22 Abril 2015
    ...of due process that must be so prejudicial to the rights of a defendant as to make a fair trial impossible." Rosales v. State, 23 N.E.3d 8, 11 (Ind. 2015) (quotations omitted).. [¶23] There is no question that it was error for the jury to hear of Street's irrelevant prior convictions. ......
  • Jackson v. State, 100517 INCA, 82A04-1609-CR-2074
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 5 Octubre 2017
    ...that "must be so prejudicial to the rights of a defendant as to make a fair trial impossible." Rosales v. State, 23 N.E.3d 8, 11 (Ind. 2015) (citations omitted). [¶16] The State's original charge of the criminal gang enhancement tracked the statutory langu......
  • Hardison v. State, 022916 INCA, 22A01-1504-CR-273
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 29 Febrero 2016
    ...of due process that must be so prejudicial to the rights of a defendant as to make a fair trial impossible." Rosales v. State, 23 N.E.3d 8, 11 (Ind. 2015) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). B. Challenged Testimony [8] Hardison contends the trial court committed fundamenta......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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