Blaize v. State, 030116 INSC, 26S00-1410-LW-771

Docket Nº:26S00-1410-LW-771
Opinion Judge:RUCKER, JUSTICE.
Party Name:Austin Blaize, Appellant (Defendant below), v. State of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff below).
Attorney:Attorney for Appellant Ivan A. Arnaez Arnaez Law Offices Evansville, Indiana. Attorneys for Appellee Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of Indiana James B. Martin Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana.
Judge Panel:Rush, C.J., and Dickson, David and Massa, JJ., concur.
Case Date:March 01, 2016
Court:Supreme Court of Indiana
 
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Austin Blaize, Appellant (Defendant below),

v.

State of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff below).

No. 26S00-1410-LW-771

Supreme Court of Indiana

March 1, 2016

Appeal from the Gibson Circuit Court, No. 26C01-1301-MR-00001 The Honorable Jeffrey F. Meade, Judge

On Direct Appeal.

Attorney for Appellant Ivan A. Arnaez Arnaez Law Offices Evansville, Indiana.

Attorneys for Appellee Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of Indiana James B. Martin Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana.

RUCKER, JUSTICE.

Arising out of a confrontation at the home of his ex-girlfriend's father, Austin Blaize was convicted of murder, attempted murder, felony murder, burglary resulting in serious bodily injury, intimidation with a deadly weapon, pointing a firearm, and carrying a handgun without a license. The jury recommended and the trial court imposed life without parole for the murder conviction, and the trial court imposed a term of years for the remaining convictions. In this direct appeal Blaize complains his convictions should be reversed and a new trial granted because of comments the trial judge made to the jury. We disagree and affirm the convictions and sentences.

Facts and Procedural History

Austin Blaize and Brittany Monier began dating in 2010 when she was 17 and he was 20. Their contentious and at times violent relationship produced two children, a daughter born in 2011 and a son born in 2012. A mostly unemployed Blaize failed to support his children. Instead his parents and Brittany's parents filled the void. In May 2012, ending the relationship and declining Blaize's marriage proposal, Brittany moved in with her father, Terry Monier, who lived in the Indian Hills subdivision of Fort Branch in Gibson County, Indiana. One of Terry's conditions on Brittany living at his house was that Blaize was not allowed to visit. And Brittany told Blaize not to come to Terry's house.

According to Brittany, Blaize "went crazy" when she ended the relationship and told her that if she dated anyone else he would kill her, their children, and the person she was dating, adding, "[i]f I can't have you, no one else can." Tr. at 72. Though the relationship was over, Blaize continued to pester Brittany regularly by telephone and text messages, inquiring whether she was dating anyone and whether she would resume their relationship. Blaize would monitor Brittany's activity on Facebook to determine with whom she was socializing. And occasionally he would show up at Terry's home uninvited while Terry was at work.

On the morning of January 16, 2013, Blaize called Brittany and told her he had a new job and asked her if she would move back with him. Brittany declined, again telling Blaize their relationship was over. By this time, Brittany was in the early stages of a relationship with Josh Webb who was visiting her daily and in fact was visiting at the time Blaize called. Webb had previously dated Blaize's sister, so the two men were acquainted with one another. Not satisfied with Brittany's rejection, Blaize called her several times that evening. And at some point Blaize and Webb had a brief conversation, with Blaize telling Webb they would meet "m[a]no to m[a]no" in Francisco. Tr. at 210. Blaize called again at 6:52 p.m. telling Webb they would meet up sooner.

Brittany then followed Webb into the attached garage where he intended to smoke a cigarette. When the light was turned on they saw Blaize standing there in a dark-colored hoodie. Following a brief exchange between Blaize and Webb, Blaize pointed a handgun at Webb's head and pulled the trigger. The handgun clicked but it did not discharge, and Blaize looked at it, exclaiming, "What the hell?" Tr. at 218.

Webb ran back into the house, and hearing screams Terry-who was home at the time- ran towards the garage door. Terry and Blaize struggled over the weapon as Terry tried to keep Blaize out of the house. Blaize then fired two shots. In a later autopsy examination, the pathologist recovered two .25 caliber bullets from Terry's body. The examination revealed Terry suffered "two gunshot wounds, one to the back of the head behind his left ear and the other to the left side of his chest." Tr. at 168. "They were both fatal wounds." Tr. at 178.

In the meantime Webb fled the house with Blaize in pursuit. A witness visiting the home of Terry's...

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