Ball v. State, No. 1277S817

Docket NºNo. 1277S817
Citation419 N.E.2d 137, 275 Ind. 617
Case DateApril 16, 1981
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

Page 137

419 N.E.2d 137
275 Ind. 617
Mikco Steven BALL, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Indiana, Appellee.
No. 1277S817.
Supreme Court of Indiana.
April 16, 1981.
Rehearing Denied June 8, 1981.

Page 138

Harriette Bailey Conn, Public Defender, David P. Freund, Marcia L. Dumond, Deputy Public Defenders, Indianapolis, for appellant.

[275 Ind. 618] Theodore L. Sendak, Atty. Gen., Joel Schiff, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee.

PIVARNIK, Justice.

Defendant-appellant Mikco Steven Ball was charged by information in Hamilton Circuit Court with three counts of first degree murder. Ind.Code § 35-13-4-1 (Burns 1975). The information alleged that Ball purposely and with premeditated malice

Page 139

killed Eugene Lillico, Rick Burke and Steven Nichter. After a change of venue to Jefferson County, appellant Ball pleaded not guilty to each count and was tried to a jury. The jury convicted Ball of second degree murder for each of the three killings. See Ind.Code § 35-1-54-1 (Burns 1975). The trial court subsequently sentenced him to three life terms. Ball raises four issues for our consideration on this appeal, concerning: (1) whether the trial court erred in allowing testimony from a clergyman; (2) whether the trial court erroneously admitted into evidence certain confessions given by Ball; (3) whether the trial court erred in giving final instruction number 28A to the jury; and (4) whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain the convictions.

I.

Appellant Ball first argues the trial court improperly permitted testimony from a minister, Purvis Earl Lawson. The record reveals that Ball initiated a conversation with Reverend Lawson in which Ball admitted killing three people. Over defendant's objection, the trial court permitted the prosecutor to elicit this evidence from Lawson. On the basis of Ind.Code § 34-1-14-5 (Burns 1973), appellant challenges the pastor's competency to testify as to Ball's admissions.

The statute in question provides in part:

"The following persons shall be incompetent witnesses:

Fifth. Clergymen, as to confessions or admissions made to them in course of discipline enjoined by their respective churches."

The key question in this case concerns whether Lawson engaged in this conversation in the course of "discipline enjoined by" his church. Reverend Lawson testified that he is the pastor of the Southside Baptist Church in Indianapolis. He stated that he is not a graduate of any [275 Ind. 619] theological seminary, and that his church is not associated in any way with the Southern Baptist Convention. Lawson also stated that his church has a written constitution, but that this constitution is not made available to non-members.

The record reveals that Ball had attended Lawson's church for four or five months prior to the conversation in question; however, he was not a member of the church, and had not attended services for approximately eight weeks before contacting Lawson. Ball telephoned Lawson on Saturday, January 3, telling him he wished to speak with him the next day following the morning worship service. Lawson agreed, and when the service was concluded, he and Ball sat in the choir loft and talked. Ball told Lawson at that time that he had killed three people. Lawson testified that initially he did not believe Ball's story, but he also encouraged Ball to turn himself in to police if what he had said was true. Ball said he would think about it. The following day, Monday, Lawson related to Indianapolis Police Officer Arnold Nelson what Ball had said, although he did not mention Ball's name. Nelson said he was unaware of any missing persons or any unsolved multiple murders. Lawson and Ball talked by telephone again that night, and Lawson testified that he again urged Ball to turn himself in. The next day, Nelson and other police officers contacted Lawson and informed him of the disappearance of three men. Lawson testified that the circumstances related by police surrounding the disappearance of the men coincided with the details Ball had given him concerning the murders. That night, Lawson contacted Ball and eventually convinced him to turn himself over to the custody of Indianapolis police officers.

We hold Lawson was not an incompetent witness. He testified that pastoral confession does not constitute one of the tenets or disciplines of his church. He also testified that his church does not recognize a confidential pastor-parishioner relationship with respect to evidence of a crime. Lawson stated that if a person were to talk to him about a legal matter, he would tell them that he would not "stand up" for him

Page 140

and would not keep the information confidential; instead, he said he would testify against someone if he learned from them that they had committed a crime. Lawson also stated that his status as a preacher would not affect his decision to testify against a person in that regard. Therefore, we conclude that Ball's admissions [275 Ind. 620] to Lawson were not made "in (the) course of discipline enjoined by" Lawson's church. s35-1-14-5, supra; Knight v. Lee, (1881) 80 Ind. 201, 203-04; Buuck v. Kruckeberg, (1950) 121 Ind.App. 262, 268, 95 N.E.2d 304, 306. The trial court did not err in admitting Lawson's testimony.

II.

Appellant Ball next argues that the trial court erroneously failed to suppress incriminating statements Ball gave to police officers. He contends these statements were not given voluntarily and, therefore, should not have been admitted.

As we have stated many times, the admissibility of a confession is to be determined from an examination of the totality of the circumstances. On appeal, this Court will review the question of such admissibility as we do other sufficiency matters. We will determine only whether there was substantial probative evidence to support the trial court's findings. In making...

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13 practice notes
  • Boyd v. State, No. 384
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • June 24, 1986
    ...in doing so, this Court looks to the totality of the circumstances existing at the time the statement was taken. Ball v. State (1981), 275 Ind. 617, 620, 419 N.E.2d 137, 140, reh. denied (1981). In determining whether the statement was voluntary, we look to the circumstances surrounding its......
  • Pamer v. State, No. 3-281A45
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • October 29, 1981
    ...made before the accused gave a confession, the reviewing court will not disturb the trial court's ruling. Ball v. State (1981), Ind., 419 N.E.2d 137, 141; Turner, supra, 407 N.E.2d at Pamer also challenges the admissibility of his written confession on the ground that it was a product of an......
  • Eubank v. State, No. 482S159
    • United States
    • December 16, 1983
    ...habitual offender status as if the defendant had not testified and had not been impeached by his criminal record." Williams v. State, 419 N.E.2d at 137. ISSUE In rebuttal, the State called Herbert Becraft to testify regarding an incident during which the Defendant had escaped from him. The ......
  • Bonham v. State, No. 53S00-9301-CR-00160
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • December 15, 1994
    ...in overruling the motion to suppress and in overruling counsel's objection to the testimony of Rev. Cuneio. See Ball v. State (1981), 275 Ind. 617, 419 N.E.2d Appellant also claims his counsel was ineffective in that he failed to object to the testimony of former Detective Sergeant Donald R......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
13 cases
  • Boyd v. State, No. 384
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • June 24, 1986
    ...in doing so, this Court looks to the totality of the circumstances existing at the time the statement was taken. Ball v. State (1981), 275 Ind. 617, 620, 419 N.E.2d 137, 140, reh. denied (1981). In determining whether the statement was voluntary, we look to the circumstances surrounding its......
  • Pamer v. State, No. 3-281A45
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • October 29, 1981
    ...made before the accused gave a confession, the reviewing court will not disturb the trial court's ruling. Ball v. State (1981), Ind., 419 N.E.2d 137, 141; Turner, supra, 407 N.E.2d at Pamer also challenges the admissibility of his written confession on the ground that it was a product of an......
  • Eubank v. State, No. 482S159
    • United States
    • December 16, 1983
    ...habitual offender status as if the defendant had not testified and had not been impeached by his criminal record." Williams v. State, 419 N.E.2d at 137. ISSUE In rebuttal, the State called Herbert Becraft to testify regarding an incident during which the Defendant had escaped from him. The ......
  • Bonham v. State, No. 53S00-9301-CR-00160
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • December 15, 1994
    ...in overruling the motion to suppress and in overruling counsel's objection to the testimony of Rev. Cuneio. See Ball v. State (1981), 275 Ind. 617, 419 N.E.2d Appellant also claims his counsel was ineffective in that he failed to object to the testimony of former Detective Sergeant Donald R......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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