867 N.E.2d 144 (Ind. 2007), 45S04-0611-CR-477, Drane v. State

Docket Nº45S04-0611-CR-477.
Citation867 N.E.2d 144
Party NameRonnie DRANE, Appellant (Defendant Below), v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff Below).
Case DateMay 29, 2007
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

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867 N.E.2d 144 (Ind. 2007)

Ronnie DRANE, Appellant (Defendant Below),

v.

STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff Below).

No. 45S04-0611-CR-477.

Supreme Court of Indiana

May 29, 2007

Appeal from the Lake Superior Court, No. 45G03-0410-MR-12 The Honorable Thomas Webber, Judge Pro Tempore , On Petition To Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 45A04-0503-CR-164.

P. Jeffrey Schlesinger, Appellate Public Defender, Crown Point, IN, Attorney for Appellant.

Steve Carter, Attorney General of Indiana, Ryan D. Johanningsmeier, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Appellee.

SHEPARD, Chief Justice.

At the conclusion of a bench trial, the court found appellant Ronnie Drane guilty for the rape and murder of Tomorra "Precious" Taylor and sentenced him to a combined

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total of eighty-five years. The Court of Appeals reversed for insufficient evidence. Having granted transfer, we affirm the trial court.

Facts and Procedural History

Tomorra "Precious" Taylor and her cousin Adrian Ross spent the afternoon of May 27, 2002, together visiting friends and family in Gary, Indiana. They stopped at Steve Chatfield's home, and Taylor borrowed Chatfield's phone to call Ronnie Drane. (State's Ex. 3, 5; Tr. at 190-94.) Taylor later stopped at a gas station to make a telephone call, and shortly after she completed the call, a man driving a "silver van" with "nice rims" arrived. (Tr. at 107.) Taylor left Ross and climbed into the passenger seat of the van to talk to the male driver. (Id. at 108.) Taylor shortly returned to her car, and she and Ross continued visiting friends and family. (Id. at 111.)

At about 8 p.m., Taylor and Ross went to the home of Taylor's foster mother, Chinese Lofton. (Id. at 111-12.) Taylor placed several more telephone calls to Drane and made arrangements to meet him that night. (Id. at 435-37.) Taylor's last conversation with Drane was at 9:47 p.m.; shortly thereafter, Taylor left Lofton's home alone. (Id. at 39, 44-46; State's Ex. 5.)

Between 11:00 and 11:30 p.m., off-duty Gary Police Corporal John Jones noticed a "gray or silver mini-van" parked in M.C. Bennett Park near the barbecue shelters. (Tr. at 289-95, 301.) The van stood out because the park closed after sunset, and park police were supposed to make sure the park was empty. (Id. at 289.) Corporal Jones testified that the van had "elongated taillights," or in other words, lights "[o]n the rear driver and passenger side [that] start pretty much at the top and go down to almost the bumper." 1 (Id. at 291.) Two to three hours later, on his way home, Corporal Jones saw what appeared to be the same van parked in the same spot. (Id. at 290.)

At about 9 a.m. the next morning, a man collecting cans in the park found Taylor's body in a shelter close to the location where Corporal Jones saw the van the previous night. (Id. at 21, 75-77, 291-93.) Taylor's body was face down, and her legs were spread open. (Id. at 22, 355-56; State's Ex. 6, 7.) Her blue jean skirt was pulled up so that her genitalia were visible. (Tr. at 22, 355-56; State's Ex. 6, 7.) Her shoes were strewn about a nearby picnic table. (Tr. at 22, 355- 56; State's Ex. 6, 7, 53.) Taylor had several injuries, including a bruised and lacerated lower lip, abrasions on her ear, left jaw, and upper back, a fractured bone in her neck, and a large bruise on her upper right thigh. (Tr. at 143-48, 171-73.) The coroner concluded strangulation was the cause of death. (Id. at 139.)

Detectives found Drane after they traced phone calls Taylor made and received on the night she was killed. (Id. at 190-94.) Those calls first led them to Tiffany Copeland's home. (Id.) Detectives soon learned Drane lived with Copeland and used a cellular phone registered in Copeland's name. (Id. at 360, 365, 435.) Copeland's home was about one mile from the park where Taylor's body was discovered. (Id. at 369.) While detectives were speaking with Copeland, they noticed a silver van at the house next door, seemingly a match with the descriptions given by Corporal Jones and Ross. (Id. at 195, 199-200, 231-32.) The van was registered in

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Copeland's name, but driven by Drane. (Id. at 369, 448.)

When Corporal Jones was shown pictures of Copeland's van at trial, he testified that the van in the pictures was likely the same van he saw in the park on the night of Taylor's murder. 2 Similarly, when Ross viewed pictures of Copeland's van at trial, she testified that the van looked like the same van that she and Taylor encountered at the gas station on the afternoon preceding Taylor's murder. 3

Tests of DNA samples found on vaginal cervical swabs and external genital swabs obtained from Taylor's body revealed that Drane could not be excluded as a contributing source. (Id. at 317, 326.) In fact, Drane admitted during his case-in-chief that he had unprotected sexual intercourse with Taylor on the night of her murder. (Id. at 440-41.) He claimed, however, that he and Taylor had consensual sex at his home, that she left shortly after midnight, and that he never saw her again. (Id. at 440-44.)

The State charged Drane with murder, murder in the perpetration of rape, and rape. The trial court found him guilty on all counts, merged the first two counts, and sentenced Drane to sixty-five years for murder and twenty years for rape, to be served consecutively. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding the State did not present sufficient evidence to support the murder and rape convictions. Drane v. State, No. 45A04-0503-CR-164, slip op., 849 N.E.2d 1232 (Ind.Ct.App. Jun. 29, 2006). We granted transfer and now affirm the trial court.

Sufficiency of the Evidence

To make a long story short, we think the Court of Appeals reweighed the evidence.

When reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a conviction, "appellate courts must consider only the probative evidence and reasonable inferences supporting the verdict." McHenry v. State, 820 N.E.2d 124, 126 (Ind. 2005) (emphasis added). It is the fact-finder's role, not that of appellate courts, to...

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1984 practice notes
  • 37 N.E.3d 525 (Ind.App. 2015), 49A04-1410-CR-467, Jordan v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 25 Junio 2015
    ...to support a conviction, we must consider only the probative evidence and reasonable inferences supporting the verdict. Drane v. State, 867 N.E.2d 144, 146 (Ind. 2007). We do not assess witness credibility or reweigh the evidence. Id. We consider conflicting evidence most favorably to the t......
  • 42 N.E.3d 586 (Ind.App. 2015), 49A02-1503-CR-151, Riley v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 30 Noviembre 2015
    ...and an invitation to reweigh the evidence and reassess the jury's credibility determination, which we will not do. See Drane v. State, 867 N.E.2d 144, 146 (Ind. 2007). [¶24] After reviewing what happened at trial, we conclude that Riley has not shown that the trial court's denial of his ora......
  • 87 N.E.3d 59 (Ind.App. 2017), 49A02-1606-CR-1447, Neville v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 25 Julio 2017
    ...could have allowed a reasonable trier of fact to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Drane v. State, 867 N.E.2d 144, 147 n.4 (Ind. 2007). [¶ 34] To convict Neville of Level 3 felony dealing in a narcotic drug as charged, the State was required ......
  • 910 N.E.2d 862 (Ind.App. 2009), 20A05-0812-CR-729, McKnight v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 29 Julio 2009
    ...to support a conviction, we consider only the probative evidence and reasonable inferences supporting the verdict. Drane v. State, 867 N.E.2d 144, 146 (Ind.2007). We do not assess witness credibility or reweigh the evidence. Id. We consider conflicting evidence most favorably to the trial c......
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2001 cases
  • 989 N.E.2d 380 (Ind.App. 2013), 55A04-1205-CR-253, Spoon v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 28 Mayo 2013
    ...of innocence. The evidence is sufficient if an inference may reasonably be drawn from it to support the verdict. Drane v. State, 867 N.E.2d 144, 146-47 (Ind.2007) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted) (emphasis in original). Furthermore, " [a] molested child's uncorroborated......
  • 959 N.E.2d 398 (Ind.App. 2011), 48A02-1103-CR-334, Roberson v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 9 Diciembre 2011
    ...a conviction.... The evidence is sufficient if an inference may reasonably be drawn from it to support the verdict. Drane v. State, 867 N.E.2d 144, 146-47 (Ind.2007) (citations, emphasis, and quotations omitted). " [I]t is for the trier of fact to reject a defendant's version of what h......
  • 40 N.E.3d 533 (Ind.App. 2015), 82A01-1411-CR-474, Green v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 23 Septiembre 2015
    ...claims is well settled. We consider only the probative evidence and reasonable inferences supporting the verdict. Drane v. State, 867 N.E.2d 144, 146 (Ind. 2007). We do not assess the credibility of witnesses or reweigh evidence. Id. We will affirm the conviction unless " no reasonable......
  • 42 N.E.3d 586 (Ind.App. 2015), 49A02-1503-CR-151, Riley v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 30 Noviembre 2015
    ...and an invitation to reweigh the evidence and reassess the jury's credibility determination, which we will not do. See Drane v. State, 867 N.E.2d 144, 146 (Ind. 2007). [¶24] After reviewing what happened at trial, we conclude that Riley has not shown that the trial court's denial of his ora......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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