Crain v. State

Decision Date20 October 2000
Docket NumberNo. 29S00-9803-CR-180.,29S00-9803-CR-180.
PartiesHerschel S. CRAIN, Jr. Appellant (Defendant below), v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff below).
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

736 N.E.2d 1223

Herschel S. CRAIN, Jr. Appellant (Defendant below),
STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff below)

No. 29S00-9803-CR-180.

Supreme Court of Indiana.

October 20, 2000.

736 N.E.2d 1229
Eric J. Benner, Richards, Boje, Pickering, Benner & Becker, Noblesville, IN, Attorney for Appellant

Jeffrey A. Modisett, Attorney General of Indiana, Janet Brown Mallett, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, Attorney for Appellee.

736 N.E.2d 1224
736 N.E.2d 1225
736 N.E.2d 1226
736 N.E.2d 1227

736 N.E.2d 1228

Defendant Herschel Crain was convicted of beating and killing his wife after confessing that he killed her two years earlier and then buried her body. He appeals claiming that there was insufficient evidence to support his murder conviction. He also challenges several rulings by the trial court, including one that allowed the prosecutor to use the victim's skull as evidence, in addition to challenging the severity of his sentence. Finding the evidence sufficient to support his convictions and the trial court's rulings otherwise proper, we affirm the convictions. We remand this case to the trial court for reconsideration of the sentence in light of the statute then in effect.

We have jurisdiction over this direct appeal because the longest single sentence exceeds 50 years. Ind. Const. art. VII, § 4; Ind. Appellate Rule 4(A)(7).


The facts most favorable to the verdict show that near the end of October 1994, Defendant Herschel Crain and his wife, Dorothea ("Dot") Crain, were arguing in Defendant's room in the Carmel Motel. During this argument, Defendant struck Dot, breaking several of her ribs and causing her to fall down and crack her skull. Defendant left his injured wife in this motel room, returning several days later to find her dead. He then buried her body behind the motel, and denied any involvement in her disappearance when questioned by police about the matter.

Over two years later on January 4, 1997, Defendant was arrested in Kokomo, Indiana, on unrelated criminal charges. During his incarceration at the Howard County Criminal Justice Center, Defendant admitted responsibility for his wife's death in a taped interview to Kokomo Detective Douglas Mason, but he claimed "it was accidental." (R. at 1039, 1041, 1051, 1052). Soon thereafter, Defendant was transported to Carmel where he led Carmel Detective Charlie Harting to an area behind the Carmel Motel; there, police officials discovered and removed Dot Crain's body. An autopsy and forensic tests performed on the body indicated that Dot's death was a homicide.

The State charged Defendant with Murder,1 Aggravated Battery, a Class B felony,2 and with being a habitual offender.3 A jury found Defendant guilty on all counts. The trial court merged the aggravated battery conviction with the murder conviction and sentenced Defendant to 60 years for the murder and 30 years for the habitual offender adjudication for a total sentence of 90 years. Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction in addition to several procedural and evidentiary rulings by the trial court. We review Defendant's claims in the order presented in his brief and will recite additional facts as needed.

736 N.E.2d 1230

Defendant first contends that the trial court committed reversible error by denying his motion to suppress his statements to Detectives Mason and Harting. He argues these statements should have been suppressed because he did not waive his Miranda rights and his confession was not made voluntarily.

Several standards govern our review. First, the State bears "the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant voluntarily and intelligently waived his rights, and that the defendant's confession was voluntarily given." Schmitt v. State, 730 N.E.2d 147, 148 (Ind. 2000) (citing Berry v. State, 703 N.E.2d 154 (Ind.1998) (citing in turn Owens v. State, 427 N.E.2d 880 (Ind.1981))). Second, where that standard has been met, "[t]he decision whether to admit a confession is within the discretion of the trial judge and will not be reversed absent an abuse of that discretion." Jones v. State, 655 N.E.2d 49, 56 (Ind.1995), reh'g denied. And third, when reviewing a challenge to the trial court's decision to admit a confession, we do not reweigh the evidence but instead examine the record for substantial, probative evidence of voluntariness. Carter v. State, 730 N.E.2d 155, 157 (Ind.2000).


We first address whether Defendant waived his Miranda rights. A waiver of one's Miranda rights occurs when a defendant, after being advised of those rights and acknowledging an understanding of them, proceeds to make a statement without taking advantage of those rights. See Speed v. State, 500 N.E.2d 186, 188 (Ind.1986). In addition to the required Miranda advisement, a defendant's self-incriminating statement must also be voluntarily given. See Gregory v. State, 540 N.E.2d 585, 592 (Ind.1989); see also Dickerson v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 120 S.Ct. 2326, 2336, 147 L.Ed.2d 405 (2000) ("The requirement that Miranda warnings be given does not, of course, dispense with the voluntariness inquiry."). In judging the voluntariness of a defendant's waiver of rights, we will look to the totality of the circumstances, see Allen v. State, 686 N.E.2d 760, 770 (Ind.1997), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 1073, 119 S.Ct. 807, 142 L.Ed.2d 667 (1999), to ensure that a defendant's self-incriminating statement was not induced by violence, threats, or other improper influences that overcame the defendant's free will, see Wilcoxen v. State, 619 N.E.2d 574, 577 (Ind.1993).

Here, the evidence supports the trial court's finding that the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant was fully advised of his Miranda rights and that he voluntarily waived those rights. During Defendant's incarceration at the Howard County Criminal Justice Center, Detective Mason overheard Defendant telling jail officials that he was trying to speak to someone about a murder. Detective Mason offered to speak with Defendant and he accepted.

At the suppression hearing, the State produced a written transcript of Defendant's statement. Detective Mason began the interview by reading Defendant his Miranda rights and then asking, "Do you understand these rights?" (R. at 1039.) Defendant answered, "Yes." (Id.) And although he initially demanded to speak to Detective Harting of the Carmel Police Department,4 Defendant soon described to Detective Mason how he accidentally killed his wife in his motel room, during the course of an argument where "[s]he hit [him] with a lamp and [he] popped her in the nose and she died." (R. at 1049.) Defendant then admitted that he dug a hole behind the motel and "threw her ass in it." (Id.)

736 N.E.2d 1231
After giving this statement to Detective Mason at approximately 1:30 a.m. on January 4, 1997, Defendant was immediately transported to Carmel to assist authorities in searching the grounds around the motel. When Defendant arrived in Carmel an hour or so later, his request to speak with Detective Harting was granted. Detective Harting entered the Kokomo squad car where Defendant was seated.

Detective Harting testified during the suppression hearing that he first Mirandized Defendant before asking him to show the police officials "where he had buried Dorothea." (R. at 1071.) Defendant then responded, "[L]et's do it." (Id.) After walking the grounds around the motel with Detective Harting and another police officer and identifying where he buried his wife, Defendant was transported back to the Howard County Jail in Kokomo. The next day, Defendant reviewed and signed the transcript of his jailhouse statement, individually initialing each page, including the first page that contained Detective Mason's transcribed verbal Miranda warning.

As noted by Judge Barr in ruling on Defendant's motion to suppress, the State established that Miranda rights were read to Defendant on at least two occasions in addition to his acknowledging the initial advisement of rights when he initialed and signed the Kokomo interview transcript. After reviewing the testimony at the suppression hearing and all materials presented therein, this Court finds no evidence of violence, threats, promises, or improper influence. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motion to suppress, as there was substantial and probative evidence sufficient to establish voluntariness beyond a reasonable doubt.


Defendant also argues he was intoxicated when he gave his statements in addition to being incoherent and not in control of his faculties due to the stress and anxiety of confessing. He maintains that under this distraught state, he was "unconscious as to what he was saying," and that therefore, the trial court abused its discretion in finding his confession was made voluntarily. Appellant's Br. at 23.

Coercive police activity is a necessary prerequisite to finding a confession is not voluntary within the meaning of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Light v. State, 547 N.E.2d 1073, 1077 (Ind.1989) (citing Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 167, 107 S.Ct. 515, 93 L.Ed.2d 473 (1986)), reh'g denied. A confession is voluntary if, in light of the totality of the circumstances, the confession is the product of a rational intellect and not the result of physical abuse, psychological intimidation, or deceptive interrogation tactics that have overcome the defendant's free will. United States v. Dillon, 150 F.3d 754, 757 (7th Cir.1998). The critical inquiry is whether the defendant's statements were induced by violence, threats, promises or other improper influence. Page v. State, 689 N.E.2d 707, 710 (Ind.1997).

Defendant claims that "both of his confessions were induced wholly by his voluminous alcohol intake," rendering his confessions involuntary. Appellant's Br. at 23. He also argues that he was placed on...

To continue reading

Request your trial
59 cases
  • Stephenson v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • April 26, 2007
    ...Generally, intoxication or mental impairment do not render a statement made by a defendant involuntary per se. Crain v. State, 736 N.E.2d 1223, 1232 (Ind.2000). These factors go to the weight of the statement, not to its admissibility. Id. The evidence shows Stephenson was drinking beer, bu......
  • D.M. v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • June 22, 2011
    ...of them. Thompkins, 130 S.Ct. at 2262; Moran v. Burbine, 475 U.S. 412, 421–23, 106 S.Ct. 1135, 89 L.Ed.2d 410 (1986); Crain v. State, 736 N.E.2d 1223, 1230 (Ind.2000). In determining the voluntariness of a Miranda waiver, we examine the totality of the circumstances surrounding the interrog......
  • Bishop v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • July 31, 2015
    ...has engaged in other, uncharged misconduct and the charged conduct was in conformity with the uncharged misconduct. Crain v. State, 736 N.E.2d 1223, 1235 (Ind.2000). The trial court has wide latitude, however, in weighing the probative value of the evidence against the possible prejudice of......
  • Poole v. State
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • June 26, 2014
    ...of the evidence and the ability of presenting the same information in a less prejudicial or graphic format. In fact, in Crain v. State, 736 N.E.2d 1223, 1233 (Ind.2000), the Indiana Supreme Court expressed its concern regarding the State's use of the victim's actual skull, but stressed that......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT