Barnes v. State, 573S99

Decision Date10 July 1975
Docket NumberNo. 573S99,573S99
Citation330 N.E.2d 743,263 Ind. 320
PartiesMaurice L. BARNES, Appellant, v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee.
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

A. Martin Katz, Gary, for appellant.

Theodore L. Sendak, Atty. Gen., J. Roland Duvall, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee.

ARTERBURN, Justice.

Defendant was tried and convicted by a jury of the crime of First Degree Murder. Since the victim was a police officer acting in the line of duty and known to be such by the Defendant, Defendant, pursuant to the statute, was sentenced to 'life imprisonment without possibility of parole.' IC 1971, 35--21--4--3 (Burns' Ind.Stat.Ann. § 10--1005b (1974 Supp.)). Defendant appeals.

Defendant raises four (4) issues. On one of these issues we find it necessary to remand this case to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing. However, we will at this time consider the other three issues raised by Appellant since there is a possibility that the remand will not result in a new trial.

Defendant's first allegation of error is that the evidence was insufficient. The evidence must be considered from that viewpoint most favorable to the State. Blackburn v. State (1973) Ind., 291 N.E.2d 686, and cases cited therein. That evidence is that Defendant, an inmate at the Indiana State Prison, escaped from the prison after stealing guns and a car from a prison guard's residence located on the grounds of the prison. As Defendant was driving this car down a local road, he passed a Highland Police Department squad car driven by Officer Sheppard, who was in full uniform, and containing two other Highland police officers who were in civilian clothes. Defendant was speeding. Officer Sheppard, apparently unaware that the driver of the speeding car was an escapee, activated the siren and red light of the squad car. After a short chase, Defendant pulled over and stopped. Officer Sheppard got out of the squad car. As he was putting on his hat, the Defendant emerged from the car he had been driving and began to shoot at Officer Sheppard while advancing toward the squad car. Officer Sheppard grabbed for his gun, turned, retreated and fell at the back of the squad car. After Officer Sheppard had fallen, defendant shot at him once more. Officer Sheppard was dead on arrival at St. Margaret's Hospital.

The thrust of Defendant's sufficiency argument is that the essential first degree murder elements of premeditation and malice were not proved. However, it is well-settled that these elements may be inferred. Malice may be inferred from the use of a deadly weapon. Aubrey v. State, (1974) Ind., 307 N.E.2d 67; Brattain v. State, (1945) 223 Ind. 489, 61 N.E.2d 462; Landreth v. State, (1930) 201 Ind. 691, 171 N.E. 192. And, premeditation, which may be inferred from all the circumstances surrounding the killing, may occur but an instant before the act. Brewer v. State, (1969) 253 Ind. 154, 252 N.E.2d 429; Farley v. State, (1962) 243 Ind. 445, 185 N.E.2d 414; May v. State, (1953) 232 Ind. 523, 112 N.E.2d 439.

Defendant also suggests that due to the quantity of pills and liquor which he had ingested prior to the shooting he was incapable of forming the requisite intent for first degree murder. This question, like the other elements of first degree murder, was also for the jury. Stout v. State, (1974) Ind., 319 N.E.2d 123; Davis v. State, (1968) 249 Ind. 373, 232 N.E.2d 867; Cotton v. State, (1965) 247 Ind. 56, 211 N.E.2d 158. The jury heard testimony describing Defendant's behavior in the hours after the shooting and during the earlier escape incident. The jury heard testimony concerning the probable effect of the amount and kind of pills and liquor Defendant claimed to have taken. From all this evidence the jury concluded that Defendant did possess the requisite capacity to form the intention to kill. The jury is the sole judge of the weight and credibility of witnesses. Since there was probative evidence to support the decision of the jury, we must affirm that decision. Blackburn, supra.

Defendant's second claim of reversible error is that he was prejudiced when the trial court permitted to be introduced into evidence the video-tape of a confession wherein Defendant had referred to past crimes which he had committed and for which he had been convicted. The general rule is that in a prosecution for a particular crime evidence of other crimes committed by the defendant independently of the offense for which he is on trial is irrelevant and therefore inadmissible. Burns v. State, (1970) 255 Ind. 1, 260 N.E.2d 559; Roddy v. State, (1970) 254 Ind. 50, 257 N.E.2d 816; Raines v. State, (1968) 251 Ind. 248, 240 N.E.2d 819. However, there are numerous exceptions to this general rule. One of these well-established exceptions is that if insanity is an issue in a criminal cause, evidence of relevant acts and conduct during the life of the defendant are admissible for the purpose of determining defendant's sanity. Fulmer v. State, (1967) 249 Ind. 261, 230 N.E.2d 307; Kiefer v. State, (1960) 241 Ind. 176, 169 N.E.2d 723; Baker v. State, (1921) 190 Ind. 385, 129 N.E. 468. Defendant filed a written plea of insanity. The question, then, became whether or not the evidence in controversy was relevant to the issue of Defendant's sanity. A trial judge has wide latitude in ruling on the relevancy of evidence. U.S. v. Gibson, (1967) 385 F.2d 341. Defendant's video-taped statement was a long, idiomatic and idosyncratic narrative description of and explanation for the escape which led to the shooting of the officer. Defendant, a prison trustee, had considerable freedom and responsibility; he stated that he escaped in order to kill his wife who had been unfaithful to him and who was planning to divorce him. The past crimes which he described were rapes. We think these incidents, as narrated and explained by Defendant himself, were relevant to the issue of sanity in that the narration gave the jury insight into Defendant's relationships with women; the pattern of relationships in an individual's life is relevant to the judgment of whether or not that individual is legally sane.

Defendant's next contention is that the statute under which he was sentenced deprived him of the equal protection of the law. Defendant's claim is that IC 1971, 35--21--4--3, supra, violates the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The statute provides that 'whoever shall kill a peace or police officer, knowing him to be such an officer while such officer is performing his official duties, shall upon conviction of murder in the first degree be sentenced to death or life imprisonment without possibility of parole.' An equal protection claim which, as here, does not involve a 'suspect classification' is a claim that the statute in question discriminates without a rational basis against one of the classifications established by the statute. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture v. Moreno, (1973) 413 U.S. 528, 37 L.Ed.2d...

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