Adams v. State, 012221 INCA, 20A-CR-814

Docket Nº:20A-CR-814
Opinion Judge:VAIDIK, JUDGE.
Party Name:Malcolm Levell Adams, Appellant-Defendant, v. State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff
Attorney:ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Sean C. Mullins Appellate Public Defender Crown Point, Indiana ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Theodore E. Rokita Attorney General J.T. Whitehead Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana
Judge Panel:Bailey, J., and Weissmann, J., concur.
Case Date:January 22, 2021
Court:Court of Appeals of Indiana

Malcolm Levell Adams, Appellant-Defendant,


State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

No. 20A-CR-814

Court of Appeals of Indiana

January 22, 2021

Pursuant to Ind. Appellate Rule 65(D), this Memorandum Decision shall not be regarded as precedent or cited before any court except for the purpose of establishing the defense of res judicata, collateral estoppel, or the law of the case.

Appeal from the Lake Superior Court The Honorable Samuel L. Cappas, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 45G04-1608-F5-75

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Sean C. Mullins Appellate Public Defender Crown Point, Indiana

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Theodore E. Rokita Attorney General J.T. Whitehead Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana



Case Summary

[¶1] Malcolm Levell Adams appeals his involuntary-manslaughter conviction, arguing the trial court erred in allowing the State to amend the charging information right before trial started and the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction because the jury acquitted him of strangulation, the predicate offense for involuntary manslaughter. We affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶2] In 2016, Adams and his friends James Robinson, Alfred McGhee, Reuben Espinoza, Reginald Wells, and James Boykin, Jr., played cards for money several times a week. It was not uncommon for a player to owe another player money or to be in debt and play anyway, and the friends inevitably paid one another back.

[¶3] But June 14 was different. On this date, the group played cards at Espinoza's house in Gary. At some point during the evening, Boykin borrowed $5 from Adams. When Adams later asked for his $5, Boykin said he would repay him when he won more money. Adams, however, was in no mood to wait. When Boykin repeated he would repay Adams later, Adams "copped an attitude" with Boykin and threatened to reach across the table and take $5 from his pile of money. Tr. Vol. III p. 16. Boykin responded Adams could try if he wanted. Adams, who was acting "aggressive," stood up, reached across the table, and took money from Boykin's pile. Tr. Vol. II p. 201. Upset, Boykin stood up and walked around the table to Adams. After Adams threw a punch, Adams and Boykin started "swinging at each other." Tr. Vol. III p. 21. Adams then grabbed Boykin "around" the "neck" and put him in a "chokehold" or "headlock." Id. at 21, 31, 50, 62; Tr. Vol. II p. 205. Adams wrestled Boykin to the ground, with Boykin lying "[f]lat on his back" and Adams on top of him "in a dominant position." Tr. Vol. II p. 206; Tr. Vol. III p. 22. While on top of Boykin, Adams continued throwing punches at him. The other men pulled Adams off Boykin and ordered Adams, who by this point was "raged," to leave. Tr. Vol. II p. 209. As soon as Adams left, the men turned their attention to Boykin, who was still lying on his back with his eyes closed. He was having "a hard time breathing" and "making a snoring sound as if he were sleeping." Id. at 210; Tr. Vol. III p. 77. When Boykin did not respond to commands and wet himself, they called 911. About twenty minutes later, EMS still had not arrived, so they called 911 again. By this point, Boykin was no longer making any sounds. EMS transported Boykin to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

[¶4] Forensic pathologist Dr. Zhuo Wang conducted an autopsy. According to Dr. Wang, Boykin's cause of death was blunt-force trauma to the head complicated by asphyxia due to neck injury. Ex. 15, p. 18; Tr. Vol. III p. 167. Dr. Wang identified three major areas of injury to Boykin's head: (1) contusion to the forehead; (2) extensive subgaleal hematoma (bleeding between the subcutaneous tissue of the scalp and the surface of the scalp); and (3) intramuscular hematoma to the left temporal muscle. In addition, Dr. Wang identified the following neck-related injuries: (1) petechial hemorrhage of the bilateral conjunctivae (mucosal surface of the inner plate of the eyelid and top of the eye) and (2) multiple hemorrhagic areas involving the neck muscles, deep soft tissue, root of the tongue, and pharynx. Dr. Wang explained the petechial hemorrhages were greater to the right eye because greater pressure was applied to the right side of the neck. Tr. Vol. III pp. 138, 152. In addition, Dr. Wang explained the hemorrhages to the root of the tongue were caused by "compression to the deep of the neck tissue." Id. at 156; see also id. at 177-78. Dr. Wang "rule[d] out" ligature strangulation (e.g., with a belt or rope), but he could not rule out manual strangulation. Id. at 164. Although Dr. Wang could not identify the "form of strangulation," he said the neck injuries were "compression injuries." Id. at 178.

[¶5] In August 2016, a Lake County grand jury filed an indictment charging Adams with Level 5 felony involuntary manslaughter and Level 6 felony strangulation. The involuntary-manslaughter indictment alleged Adams knowingly or intentionally killed Boykin "while committing or attempting to commit a Level 5 or 6 Felony that inherently poses a risk of serious bodily injury, contrary to I.C. 35-42-1-4(b)(1)." Appellant's App. Vol. II p. 19; see also Ind. Code § 35-42-1-4(b)(1) ("A person who kills another human being while committing or attempting to commit . . . a Level 5 or Level 6 felony that inherently poses a risk of serious bodily injury . . . commits involuntary manslaughter, a Level 5 felony."). The strangulation indictment alleged Adams knowingly or intentionally applied pressure to Boykin's throat or neck in a rude, angry, or insolent manner "that impede[d] the normal breathing or the blood circulation." Appellant's App. Vol. II p. 20.

[¶6] A jury trial was held over three years later in October 2019. Right before trial started, the State moved to amend the involuntary-manslaughter indictment to remove "knowingly or intentionally" "to more accurately reflect the statutory language" for involuntary manslaughter. Id. at 73-75. After a short hearing, the trial court allowed the amendment over Adams's objection.

[¶7] During closing argument, defense counsel argued that in order for the jury to find Adams guilty of involuntary manslaughter, it had to find he committed Level 6 felony strangulation. Tr. Vol. IV p. 101. The State objected, arguing the jury did not have to find Adams committed Level 6 felony strangulation; rather, it could find he committed another Level 5 or 6 felony. Defense counsel responded the State never identified another Level 5 or 6 felony and therefore "[t]he only felony for this jury's consideration by the choice of the State [wa]s strangulation." Id. at 102. The trial court agreed with defense counsel, finding the State was "bootstrapped" into proving Adams committed Level 6 felony...

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