Corder v. State

Citation467 N.E.2d 409
Decision Date20 August 1984
Docket NumberNo. 483,483
PartiesDaniel Scott CORDER, Appellant (Defendant below), v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff below). S 143.
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

Charles E. Enslen, Highland, for appellant.

Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen., Joseph N. Stevenson, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee.

HUNTER, Justice.

Defendant, Daniel Scott Corder, was convicted by a jury of murder, Ind.Code Sec. 35-42-1-1 (Burns 1979 Repl.), and of attempted murder, a Class A felony, Ind.Code Sec. 35-41-5-1 (Burns 1979 Repl.). Defendant received consecutive terms of fifty-five and forty-five years. In this direct appeal, defendant raised ten issues, which we have combined into eight:

1. Whether the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions;

2. Whether the sentence imposed was cruel and unusual punishment;

3. Whether the trial court erred in denying a request by defendant's attorney to withdraw his appearance;

4. Whether the trial court erred in granting defendant's motion to withdraw his plea of insanity;

5. Whether the trial court erred in denying defendant's motion to sequester the jury;

6. Whether the trial court improperly admitted hearsay evidence;

7. Whether the trial court erred in admitting certain photographs; and

8. Whether the trial court erred in allowing statements made by defendant to a psychiatrist to be used for impeachment purposes.

A review of the facts most favorable to the state shows that on November 30, 1980, defendant spent the day with his parents, Daniel and Lois Corder, at their home in Merrillville. After dinner, Mrs. Corder fell asleep in a chair. As Mrs. Corder slept defendant came up behind her and struck her across the head with a baseball bat. Mrs. Corder ran from the house to her next door neighbors. The neighbors turned on an outdoor spotlight and noticed Mrs. Corder covered with blood and defendant coming toward her with a baseball bat. Defendant told the neighbors that the house was on fire and then returned to the house. He later drove away in his automobile.

Mrs. Corder testified that as she ran from her house she noticed defendant and Mr. Corder fighting. One of the Corders' neighbors found Mr. Corder lying in the driveway. Mr. Corder told the neighbor that "Scott went crazy, beat us with a baseball bat." Moments later, Mr. Corder told the neighbor he had been shot in the stomach. Mr. Corder died shortly thereafter.

After leaving his parents' house defendant went to a friend in Chicago. The next day another friend told him he was wanted by the police in Indiana. Defendant surrendered voluntarily on December 3, 1980.


Defendant first argues that the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions for murder and attempted murder. We disagree.

Under our standard for reviewing questions involving the sufficiency of the evidence, we may neither weigh the evidence nor judge the credibility of witnesses. We must look at the evidence most favorable to the state along with all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom to determine whether there is substantial evidence of probative value to support the conclusion of the trier of fact. Walker v. State, (1982) Ind., 442 N.E.2d 696; Fielden v. State, (1982) Ind., 437 N.E.2d 986.

Defendant's contention regarding the murder conviction is that the evidence failed to show that he knowingly or intentionally killed his father. Defendant characterizes the evidence as circumstantial and points out that there was no direct evidence showing that he shot his father. While it is true that there was no direct evidence, a guilty verdict may be based solely on circumstantial evidence. McAfee v. State, (1984) Ind., 459 N.E.2d 1186; Thompson v. State, (1982) Ind., 441 N.E.2d 192. Circumstantial evidence is no different from other evidence for sufficiency purposes. Collins v. State, (1980) Ind., 413 N.E.2d 264. Here the evidence shows that defendant's mother, after being struck by defendant, saw defendant and his father fighting. A neighbor testified that he heard a gunshot and shortly thereafter found Mr. Corder seriously wounded. A semi-automatic rifle that defendant knew how to operate was found in the house and firearms experts testified that the bullet that killed Mr. Corder came from the gun. From the evidence produced at trial the jury could logically have inferred that defendant knowingly and intentionally shot his father.

Defendant also claims that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction for attempted murder. Defendant admits that there was direct evidence showing that he struck his mother with a baseball bat but states that a baseball bat is not a deadly weapon per se. We have consistently held that whether an object is or is not a deadly weapon depends upon the manner in which it is used. Lamb v. State, (1984) Ind., 462 N.E.2d 1025; Cummings v. State, (1979) 270 Ind. 251, 384 N.E.2d 605; Liston v. State, (1969) 252 Ind. 502, 250 N.E.2d 739. Here, the bat was obviously being used in a manner calculated to cause great bodily injury and intent to kill may be inferred from the use of a deadly weapon in a way likely to cause death. Johnson v. State, (1980) 273 Ind. 1, 401 N.E.2d 674. The evidence was sufficient to show that defendant acted with the required degree of culpability. There was no error.


Defendant next contends that the sentence was so excessive that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Defendant asserts that the consecutive sentences of fifty-five and forty-five years were manifestly unreasonable and were the product of the trial judge's prejudice against defendant. Defendant further argues that as a result of this prejudice the trial judge ignored certain mitigating circumstances.

Under Ind.R.Ap.Rev.Sen. 2, we may revise a sentence authorized by statute only if the sentence is manifestly unreasonable in light of the nature of the offense and the character of the offender. A sentence is not manifestly unreasonable unless no reasonable person could find such a sentence appropriate to the particular offense and offender. Id. Here the trial judge stated that he found only one mitigating circumstance, that being defendant's lack of criminal history. As aggravating circumstances the trial judge found that defendant was in need of correctional treatment, that the apparent motive for the crime was money, that the victims were defendant's parents, that the attack on defendant's mother was vicious and that the father was shot in the back. Defendant asserts that the judge failed to take into account defendant's age, his blackouts, the fact that he had been drinking, and that he voluntarily returned to Indiana. We first note that the failure to consider defendant's age was certainly not error, since defendant was twenty-four years old. Nor was the failure to consider the other factors as mitigating circumstances error. The sentence was clearly based upon the facts of the case and was within the parameters of the statute. And while the trial judge did at one point indicate his disgust of defendant, there is no evidence that the sentence was based on prejudice. In short, we do not find the sentence excessive. There was no error.


On August 17, 1981, defendant's public defender petitioned the court for permission to withdraw his appearance on the ground that a conflict of interest had developed. The motion did not specify what the conflict was, but instead stated that disclosure would have violated the attorney/client privilege. The trial judge denied the motion but referred the matter to another judge for an in camera hearing. The record does not disclose whether the in camera hearing was ever held. Defendant contends the trial judge erred in denying the motion to withdraw before referring the matter to another judge for an in camera hearing.

The better course of action in this case may well have been for the trial judge to have held a hearing on the motion before denying it. Nevertheless, defendant has not demonstrated sufficient prejudice to require reversal. Defendant's attorney continued to represent defendant in an adequate manner, and defendant admits that his representation did not result in his trial being a mockery of justice. Defendant does raise instances where he claims his counsel was not adequately prepared, but they were not sufficient to require reversal. As defendant has not shown that the denial of the motion to withdraw jeopardized or prejudiced him, we cannot now reverse.


Defendant next contends the trial court erred when it granted defendant's motion to withdraw his insanity plea without first making findings of facts and conclusions of law. Defendant asserts that such findings were necessary in order to assure that he was competent to make the request.

Defendant acknowledges that the right to a competency hearing is not absolute, Feggins v. State, (1980) 272 Ind. 585, 400 N.E.2d 164, and that a hearing is necessary only when there is evidence before the trial court that creates a reasonable or bona fide doubt as to defendant's competency. Feggins v. State; Cook v. State, (1972) 258 Ind. 667, 284 N.E.2d 81. However, defendant believes there were sufficient indicators before the court to create a bona fide doubt as to his competency. These indicators included the fact that defendant originally claimed he could not remember the incident, the fact that the withdrawal of the insanity defense was a radical change in the trial strategy, and the fact that defendant's father, after he was shot, stated "Scott went crazy." We believe these facts do not justify the significance placed upon them by defendant. Prior to defendant's request to withdraw his insanity plea the court conducted a competency hearing and determined that defendant was able to comprehend the proceedings and assist in his own defense. When the motion to withdraw the insanity defense was made, the trial judge asked defendant's attorney whether he had discussed with defendant the...

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