Grimes v. State, 1280S444

Citation450 N.E.2d 512
Case DateJuly 06, 1983
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

Susan K. Carpenter, Public Defender, M.E. Tuke, Deputy Public Defender, Indianapolis, for appellant.

Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen., Stephan E. Wolter, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee.

PIVARNIK, Justice.

Defendant-Appellant Charles Grimes, Jr., was found guilty of murder by a jury in the Jay Circuit Court on May 16, 1980. The trial judge subsequently sentenced Appellant to forty years imprisonment. Appellant now directly appeals and raises the following fifteen issues:

1. admissibility of certain photographs of the victim's dead body;

2. admissibility of certain photographs of the room in which said body was found;

3. denial of Appellant's motion for change of venue and for individual voir dire of the jury;

4. admissibility of testimony that photographs of Appellant were found in the victim's trailer home;

5. admissibility of the victim's driver's license and billfold found in said trailer;

6. admissibility of a rubber glove found on the victim's body;

7. admissibility of testimony that there were no other reports of crimes in the area of the instant murder on the day of said murder;

8. propriety of Kenneth Joy as an expert witness;

9. admissibility of evidence of previous consentual sexual encounters between Appellant and the victim;

10. admissibility of testimony about Appellant's statements concerning his activities on the day and evening of the murder;

11. admissibility of Clay Aker's testimony about Steven Loy's statement to him in Appellant's presence;

12. admissibility of Mary Joann Hall's testimony about Steven Loy's statement in Appellant's presence;

13. sufficiency of the evidence;

14. admissibility of certain diagrams used by the prosecutor in his final argument; and

15. whether the trial court erred by refusing to allow Appellant's immediate family to remain in the courtroom as an exception to Appellant's motion to separate witnesses.

At approximately 3:40 a.m. on September 6, 1979, Bruce W. Lykins was found dead in his trailer home at the Oakwood Trailer Park in Portland, Indiana. The Portland Fire Department had been called because Lykins' trailer home was on fire. A Deputy State Fire Marshall estimated that said Department arrived more than twenty minutes but less than one hour after the fire began. It subsequently was determined that the fire originated in Lykins' kitchen where some cushions had been placed on the range and the burners turned on. Lykins' body was found nude, face-down and "spread-eagled" on his bed with each limb bound to a different bedpost. The body was covered with a four to six inch deep layer of burned clothing and other debris; there was a wound on the back of the skull and a coat hanger wrapped tightly around the neck. An open jar of vaseline was found on a nearby chest and a rubber glove was found in the debris just above the victim's buttocks. Four Polaroid snapshots of Appellant and two billfolds, one lying on top of the other, were found in a dresser drawer also nearby the victim's bed. The top wallet contained Lykins' driver's license while the wallet underneath contained documents belonging to Appellant. An autopsy revealed that Lykins died of asphyxia due to strangulation. The attending pathologist concluded that Lykins died before the fire but no earlier than 8:30 p.m. on September 5. An expert witness for the State testified that the crime scene indicated homosexual activity and possibly bondage or sado-masochism. There was introduced at trial certain evidence showing that Appellant and Lykins had engaged in a homosexual relationship for several years prior to this murder.


Dr. Roger Fossum, a pathologist, conducted an autopsy on Lykins. At trial, Dr. Fossum testified to the following:

--Lykins' face was congested with blood and petechial hemorrhages were on his face, within the whites of his eyes, on his heart and on his lungs indicating that Lykins died by asphyxia due to strangulation;

--the skin surrounding the burned areas on Lykins' body was essentially normal and no soot was present within the lungs or stomach indicating that Lykins died before the fire;

--the appearance of Lykins' head wound indicated that it was caused by a blunt instrument and inflicted shortly before death;

--the absence of bruising or hemorrhaging beneath the ropes tied to Lykins' wrists and feet indicated that he was bound prior to the fire; and

--the livor mortis pattern created by the pooling and coagulation of Lykins' blood after death indicated that Lykins' body was initially face-up for one-half hour to twelve hours after death and then turned face-down. During Dr. Fossum's testimony before the jury, he introduced and commented upon each of State's Exhibits E-1 through E-14. Said Exhibits were a series of photographic slides depicting Lykins' body before and during Dr. Fossum's autopsy. Appellant now claims that it was reversible error to admit these fourteen Exhibits because of their number and because they were gruesome to observe and tended to inflame the passions of the jury so as to unjustly prejudice Appellant.

Autopsy photographs are admissible when relevant to a victim's cause of death and illustrative of a witness' testimony. Moore v. State, (1981) Ind., 414 N.E.2d 558; Bond v. State, (1980) Ind., 403 N.E.2d 812, reh. denied. The fact that the photographs are gruesome does not in itself render them inadmissible; the real inquiry is whether or not the photographs are relevant to the issues in the case. Horne v. State, (1983) Ind., 445 N.E.2d 976, reh. denied; Warrenburg v. State, (1973) 260 Ind. 572, 298 N.E.2d 434, reh. denied. The test for determining whether such photographs are relevant is whether or not a witness would be permitted to verbally describe that which the photographs depict. Rowan v. State, (1982) Ind., 431 N.E.2d 805, reh. denied; Bray v. State, (1982) Ind., 430 N.E.2d 1162. We do not find that the trial judge abused his discretion by permitting the admission of the twelve photographic slides denominated Exhibits E-1 through E-12 in consideration of the facts of this case and the testimony of Dr. Fossum who sponsored said Exhibits. Although these Exhibits were admittedly gruesome, they nevertheless depicted certain specific facts and circumstances of this case. Dr. Fossum's testimony clearly related his autopsy observations, as illustrated by Exhibits E-1 through E-12, to the State's theory of the chain of events in this case. Exhibits E-1 through E-12 were relevant, therefore, and were properly admitted. Exhibits E-13 and E-14 should not have been admitted. We already have held, however, that the error occasioned by their admission under similar facts and circumstances in a companion case was harmless. Loy v. State, (1982) Ind., 436 N.E.2d 1125. We now so hold with respect to this case. There is no reversible error on this issue in this case.


Appellant also claims that the trial court committed reversible error by admitting into evidence State's Exhibits D-7, D-11, D-14, D-16, D-24 through D-32, and D-34 through D-39. Said Exhibits were photographs of the crime scene. Appellant argues that although no single photograph was so prejudicial as to overwhelm its relevance when considered alone, it was unduly cumulative to admit all of the photographs together because doing so permitted the State to overemphasize the fact that Lykins was brutally killed. An examination of these Exhibits, however, reveals that they depict various aspects of the scene at the victim's trailer. Specifically, the photographs show the general layout of the trailer's interior, its condition after the fire, and the position of Lykins' dead body in his bedroom. Photographs of a crime scene are generally admissible because they are competent and relevant aids by which a jury can orient itself to best understand the evidence submitted to it. These photographs were taken from different angles and depict different aspects of the victim's dead body, the room in which it was found and the other interior areas of the victim's trailer home. We find no error in their admission. Goodrich v. State, (1981) Ind., 426 N.E.2d 1316; Smith v. State, (1981) Ind., 420 N.E.2d 1225; Drollinger v. State, (1980) Ind., 408 N.E.2d 1228; Bond, supra.


Appellant moved for a change of venue from Jay County and for permission to individually voir dire the prospective jurors because of the extensive newspaper coverage surrounding this crime. The State concedes that this crime precipitated extensive newspaper coverage in the Jay County area, some of which was prejudicial to Appellant. Most of the coverage, however, was reported approximately eight months before the trial of this cause. We believe that the State correctly contends that for a defendant to establish the good cause necessary to warrant a discretionary change of venue, he must produce evidence of community bias or prejudice sufficient to convince the trial court that he cannot obtain a fair trial in that county. This Court has held:

"We will not reverse a trial court in its judgment on this issue even if there was a showing of some prejudice, where there was no reason to believe that any juror was so infected with preconceived opinions as to have been unable to judge the defendant wholly upon the law and evidence adduced at the trial."

Willard v. State, (1980) Ind., 400 N.E.2d 151, 156. We also have held that a fair trial can be had even though a juror may have entertained a preconceived opinion as to a defendant's culpability if said juror can lay aside his impression or opinion and render a verdict on the evidence presented in court. Drollinger, 408 N.E.2d at 1235, quoting Murphy v. Florida, (1975) 421 U.S. 794, 95 S.Ct. 2031, 44 L.Ed.2d 589, and Irvin v. Dowd, (1961) 366 U.S. 717, 81 S.Ct. 1639, 6 L.Ed.2d 751.

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  • Lowery v. State
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Indiana
    • June 4, 1985
    ...face covered with blood. However, the fact that a photograph is gruesome does not render it inadmissible. Ferry, supra; Grimes v. State, (1983) Ind., 450 N.E.2d 512, 516. Defendant must show that the photographs' tendency to improperly influence the jury outweighed their probative value to ......
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