Ingram v. State

Decision Date12 June 1987
Docket NumberNo. 785S272,785S272
Citation508 N.E.2d 805
PartiesJames INGRAM, Appellant (Petitioner below), v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Respondent below).
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

Susan K. Carpenter, Public Defender, William L. Touchette, Deputy Public Defender, Indianapolis, for appellant.

Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen., John D. Shuman, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee.

PIVARNIK, Justice.

Petitioner-Appellant James H. Ingram filed a pro se Petition for Post-Conviction Relief which was denied on January 8, 1985. When Ingram originally was tried in 1979 on two counts of murder while committing arson, the State requested the death penalty. The jury was unable to agree on a verdict and the proceedings resulted in a mistrial. The State then withdrew the death penalty request. Ingram was retried, resulting in a conviction of two counts of Murder. He was sentenced to two consecutive fifty (50) year terms of imprisonment. His convictions were affirmed in Ingram v. State (1981), Ind., 426 N.E.2d 18. In this appeal from the denial of his post-conviction petition, Ingram presents three issues:

1. sufficiency of the evidence 2. fundamental error in the impeachment of a witness; and

3. ineffective assistance of appellate counsel.

We first note that Ingram has the burden of proving his grounds for relief in a post-conviction proceeding by a preponderance of the evidence. Music v. State (1986), Ind., 489 N.E.2d 949, 950. We will not reweigh the evidence or judge the credibility of witnesses and will not set aside the court's ruling on a post-conviction petition unless the evidence is without conflict and leads solely to a result different from that reached by the trial court. Music, 489 N.E.2d at 950; Mato v. State (1985), Ind., 478 N.E.2d 57, 62.

I

Ingram claims the post-conviction court erred in finding there was sufficient evidence to support his conviction. This issue is res judicata as it was previously resolved adverse to Ingram's position in his original appeal. Ingram, 426 N.E.2d at 19. In the original appeal we found the issue was improperly raised procedurally. However, we considered it to assure that a meritorious appeal not be defeated by procedural error. The record clearly demonstrated there was more than adequate probative evidence supporting the jury's verdict of guilt. The evidence showed Ingram and his brother, Maurice Gaines, acted in concert to burn down an apartment building in Gary, Indiana. Ingram was charged with killing his wife, Lucy, and their daughter, Omega, while committing arson. There was evidence the building was burned by the use of gasoline as an accelerant. Witnesses testified that Ingram had told certain persons of his intentions to kill Lucy, his estranged wife, rather than divorce her. Lucy's eleven year-old son, Anthony French, was the primary witness against Ingram. Anthony testified he saw Ingram and Gaines enter the building with two gasoline cans, a shot-gun, and some rags. He heard the sound of pouring liquid and heard the fire start. He then saw Ingram and Gaines leave in Ingram's automobile and observed the building to be in flames.

Ingram maintains this Court could not have objectively weighed the sufficiency issue in the original appeal in light of his appellate counsel's statement that there was sufficient evidence supporting the conviction and the inadequate adversarial briefing. Ingram contends that the outcome on direct appeal might have been different had his appellate counsel argued the appeal differently. This contention is without merit. Ingram's argument merely questions the credibility of the witnesses. We do not reweigh the evidence as that is the province of the jury. Garland v. State (1982), Ind., 439 N.E.2d 606, 610. Since there clearly was sufficient probative evidence before the jury, the post-conviction court properly denied relief on this issue.

II

Ingram claims the trial court committed fundamental error by permitting Gaines to be cross-examined concerning his conduct with regard to another witness. The permitting or refusing of cross-examination will not be grounds for reversal unless an abuse of discretion is demonstrated. Evidence pertaining to threats or other attempts to influence a witness is permissible on cross-examination since it reflects on the credibility of the witness. Hardin v. State (1981), 275 Ind. 63, 414 N.E.2d 570, 572.

Gaines originally was Ingram's co-defendant. Prior to Ingram's second trial, Gaines was tried separately and acquitted. During Ingram's second trial, Gaines was called as a defense witness and testified concerning his alibi during the time the crime was committed. On cross-examination the State was permitted, over objection, to ask Gaines whether, on an occasion after the crime, he had thrown a stick at or threatened Anthony French. This impeachment questioning was not directed to a prior bad act of Gaines, inferring Gaines had a deficient character and was therefore less credible. Rather, the impeachment went to whether Gaines had intimidated a witness.

Ingram claims the questioning was so inflammatory and prejudicial that it amounted to fundamental error. The jury had already heard Anthony French testify that Gaines and Ingram committed the crimes. Also, the defense was prohibited from informing the jury that Gaines had been acquitted of the crimes for which Ingram was being tried. Ingram claims that since Gaines thus appeared to be a defendant-witness, the impeaching questions encouraged the jury to infer that Gaines had threatened the boy to protect himself and Ingram. We see no merit to this contention. Gaines was testifying as to his own involvement in the incident. The questions were directed to his actions and not Ingram's. Further, Gaines denied he had ever threatened Anthony French in any manner.

In any event, the admission of the testimony did not amount to fundamental error. Fundamental error is a blatant error creating a substantial potential for harm. Terry v. State (1984), Ind., 465 N.E.2d 1085, 1087. Such errors have been described as a failure to meet the requirements of due process of law since they involve violations of basic elementary principals. Nelson v. State (1980), 274 Ind. 218, 220, 409 N.E.2d 637, 638. In Bailey v. State (1985), Ind., 472 N.E.2d 1260, 1263, fundamental error was described as error which is so egregious that it must be decided by the appellate court because of its fundamental nature. It does not appear the trial court here abused its discretion by permitting the testimony. Ingram therefore fails...

To continue reading

Request your trial
47 cases
  • Smith v. Farley
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Indiana
    • October 31, 1994
    ...sufficiently enabled this Court to reach the issues, it will not support this claim of ineffective assistance. See, Ingram v. State, 508 N.E.2d 805 at 808 (Ind.1987). Smith does not demonstrate any issues to be raised on an appeal de novo that are omitted from the current brief, and which, ......
  • Canaan v. Davis, Cause No. IP 97-1847-C H/K (S.D. Ind. 1/10/2003)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Indiana
    • January 10, 2003
    ...N.E.2d at 236, citing the state's post-conviction rule on waiver, Lamb v. State, 511 N.E.2d 444, 447 (Ind. 1987), and Ingram v. State, 508 N.E.2d 805, 807 (Ind. 1987). The sufficiency of the evidence to support the conviction clearly had been decided in Canaan I, but the absence of a specif......
  • Kendall v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • May 9, 2008
    ...render representation ineffective." Bieghler, 690 N.E.2d at 199; Davis v. State, 598 N.E.2d 1041, 1051 (Ind.1992); Ingram v. State, 508 N.E.2d 805, 808 (Ind.1987). Further, "`appellate counsel cannot be held ineffective for failing to anticipate or effectuate a change in the existing law.'"......
  • Powers v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • March 30, 1993
    ...(1987), Ind., 505 N.E.2d 51. A successful claim of an ineffective assistance of appellate counsel has two components. Ingram v. State (1987), Ind., 508 N.E.2d 805. The post-conviction petitioner must demonstrate 1) deficient performance by counsel and 2) resulting prejudice so serious as to......
  • 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