Bennett v. State

Decision Date26 February 1981
Docket NumberNo. 3-880A229,3-880A229
Citation416 N.E.2d 1307
PartiesAlbert BENNETT, Appellant (Defendant Below), v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff Below).
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

Kenneth L. Anderson, Dyer, for appellant.

Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen., Frederick N. Kopec, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee.

STATON, Judge.

Albert Bennett was charged with the crime of Robbery and found guilty, by jury, of Criminal Conversion, 1 a class A Misdemeanor. He was sentenced to the Indiana Department of Correction for a period of six months.

On appeal, Bennett raises four issues for our consideration:

(1) Did the court err in admitting a photograph without laying a proper foundation?

(2) Was the in-court identification tainted by an impermissibly suggestive pre-trial photographic procedure?

(3) Did the trial court err in admitting the gun seized from one of the co-defendants?

(4) Was there sufficient evidence to support the judgment of the trial court?

We affirm.

I. Admission of Photograph

On appeal, Bennett claims that the court erred in admitting a photograph of the contents of a purse taken from a 68-year-old widow after she had gotten off a bus. He contends that the State failed to lay a proper foundation for the admission of the photograph in that it neglected to connect the proferred evidence with him. We disagree.

Evidence may be found relevant even though its ability to persuade is slight. Smith v. Crouse-Hinds Co. (1978), Ind.App., 373 N.E.2d 923. Any fact which legitimately tends to connect a defendant with a crime is admissible even if only a reasonable inference may be drawn from it. Steadman v. State (1979), Ind.App., 385 N.E.2d 1200. A photograph of a person, place or thing is generally considered to be competent evidence of anything of which it is competent or relevant for a witness to give a verbal description, if it is shown to be a true representation of that which it purports to represent. Brown v. State (1979), Ind.App., 390 N.E.2d 1058, 1065. Photographs are admissible as evidence of anything to which a witness might be permitted to testify. Wollam v. State (1978), Ind., 380 N.E.2d 82, 89. See generally, Case Note, Evidence Adoption of the "Silent Witness Theory" Bergner v. State, 13 Ind.L.Rev. 1025 (1980).

The photograph-at-issue is of the contents of the purse which was seized from the three youths who were arrested shortly after the purse-snatching occurred. After testifying that the photograph accurately depicted the items found in the purse, the arresting officer identified the victim's wallet by a "little funny white pen in it." A portion of the photograph which could not be positively identified was cut out before it was submitted for admission into evidence. The purse, which was admitted into evidence without objection, was connected to Bennett by the testimony of Vincent Vespo who saw the defendant carrying the purse while fleeing with the other two youths. The victim identified her purse and testified that the contents of the purse as portrayed by the photograph belonged to her and that they were in her purse at the time of the purse-snatching.

The court is vested with broad discretion in determining the admissibility of evidence in the form of photographs. Meeker v. Robinson (1977), Ind.App., 370 N.E.2d 392. This determination may be reversed on appeal only upon a showing of an abuse of that discretion. Meeker, supra. Such may be shown by appellant's demonstration that the ruling was clearly contrary to the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances before the court. Smith v. Crouse-Hinds, supra, at 927. Bennett had made no such showing.

II. Photographic Identification

Bennett next suggests that there was no independent basis to support the in-court identification. As such, he argues, the court erred by denying his motion to suppress the in-court identification because of the suggestiveness of the pre-trial identification procedure.

Suppression of identification evidence at trial is necessary only where the pre-trial procedure utilized was so impermissibly suggestive as to give rise to a very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification. Popplewell v. State (1978), Ind., 381 N.E.2d 79; Kizer v. State (1979), Ind.App., 395 N.E.2d 841. We will look to the "totality of the circumstances" to determine whether a pre-trial identification procedure has been conducted in an impermissibly suggestive manner. Hill v. State (1977), 267 Ind. 411, 370 N.E.2d 889; Kizer, supra, at 843.

In reviewing the "totality of the circumstances," we note that Vespo was shown a photographic display approximately one week after the incident occurred. The display, containing the photographs of 14 black males who were 15 to 30 years of age, was compiled by the police on the basis of Vespo's description. The photographs in the display were laid, by a police officer, on the top of a desk in no particular order. After eliminating several of the photographs because of obvious age differences, Vespo was able to positively identify not only Bennett, but the other two young men with him as well.

Bennett attempts to argue, on appeal, that the varying lengths and styles of the men's facial hair as depicted in the photographs contributed to the suggestiveness of the pre-trial procedure. We cannot agree. Distinctiveness of hair style is only one of a number of factors to be considered in a pre- trial identification procedure. Fields v. State (1975), 263 Ind. 550, 333 N.E.2d 742; Aker v. State (1980), Ind.App., 403 N.E.2d 847.

Nearly a year after the initial photographic line-up and several days before trial, Vespo was shown another series of photographs. This display consisted of six photographs, 2 one of which was Bennett. When shown this display, Vespo was not told it contained a photograph of the defendant, but rather he was asked if any of the photographs of the youths he had seen and identified one year earlier were included. Vespo again identified Bennett and the other two young men. Despite Bennett's contentions to the contrary, even the use of one picture, for identification purposes, of a suspect is not per se impermissibly suggestive as there is no set number of photographs which must be shown to a witness in a pre-trial display. Dowdell v. State (1978), Ind.App., 374 N.E.2d 540; Caywood v. State (1974), 160 Ind.App. 346, 311 N.E.2d 845. Again, the test is one of a "totality of the circumstances."

Even if the pre-trial photographic display had been conducted in an impermissibly suggestive manner, an in-court identification is proper if an "independent basis" for the identification can be established. Young v. State (1979), Ind. 395 N.E.2d 772. To determine whether an independent basis for an in-court identification exists, a "totality of the circumstances" standard is used. Young, supra; Eckman v. State (1979), Ind.App., 386 N.E.2d 956. In making such a determination, we will look to a number of factors: whether the witness had an opportunity to observe the perpetrator of the crime, the lighting conditions at that time, the distance of the witness from the perpetrator, the capacity of the witness for observation, and the opportunity of the witness to observe particular characteristics of the perpetrator. Aker, supra; Eckman, supra.

The record indicates that Vespo pursued Bennett and the other two as they fled from the scene of the crime. He chased them on foot and was, at times, very close to them. He testified that he got a good look at their faces and said, "I don't believe I will ever forget those faces." According to Vespo, even though the weather was overcast and approaching dusk, it was still light enough to have driven an automobile without using headlights....

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5 cases
  • Morris v. State, 1-781A212
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • March 31, 1982
    ...which occurred near in time and place of the crime where each of the crimes is a part of an uninterrupted transaction. Bennett v. State, (1981) Ind.App., 416 N.E.2d 1307. The evidence that the deceased, early in the evening of November 24, 1978, was shooting dogs along with Stephens is not ......
  • Henson v. State, 1283S461
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Indiana
    • September 7, 1984
    ...true. Even the use of one picture for identification purposes of a suspect is not per se impermissibly suggestive. Bennett v. State, (1981) Ind.App., 416 N.E.2d 1307; Dowdell v. State, (1978) 176 Ind.App. 84, 374 N.E.2d 540. The circumstances of the identification must be examined to determ......
  • Jacobs v. State, 2-1181A369
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • October 17, 1983
    ...likelihood of irreparable misidentification. Popplewell v. State (1978) 269 Ind. 323, 381 N.E.2d 79, 81; Bennett v. State (3d Dist.1981) Ind.App., 416 N.E.2d 1307, 1310. We must consider the totality of the circumstances in determining whether a pre-trial identification procedure has been c......
  • Filler v. State, 1-1280A345
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • June 23, 1981
    ...See, e. g., Long v. State, (1979) Ind., 385 N.E.2d 191; Swope v. State, (1975) 263 Ind. 148, 325 N.E.2d 193; Bennett v. State, (1981) Ind.App., 416 N.E.2d 1307. To determine whether an independent basis for the in-court identification exists a "totality of circumstances" standard is used. Y......
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