J.D.P. v. State, 35A04-0512-JV-728.

Decision Date05 December 2006
Docket NumberNo. 35A04-0512-JV-728.,35A04-0512-JV-728.
Citation857 N.E.2d 1000
PartiesJ.D.P., Appellant-Defendant, v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

Jeremy K. Nix, Matheny, Michael, Hahn & Denman, LLP, Huntington, IN, Attorney for Appellant.

Steve Carter, Attorney General of Indiana, Jodi Kathryn Stein, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Appellee.


DARDEN, Judge.


J.D.P., Jr. ("J.P.") appeals his adjudication as a juvenile delinquent for committing an act that would be aiding in arson as a class B felony if committed by an adult.

We affirm.


1. Whether the juvenile court abused its discretion by allowing a police officer to testify regarding statements made by J.P. during an interrogation in which J.P. and his mother had waived their Miranda rights.

2. Whether sufficient evidence supports J.P.'s delinquency adjudication.


On May 21, 2005, fourteen-year-old J.P. and twelve-year-old J.W. were alone in J.P.'s backyard where they "made [Molotov] cocktails" — by putting gasoline in bottles and baby food jars and lighting them on fire — and threw them into the parking lot of the Horace Mann Apartments behind J.P.'s house. (Tr. 161) When a neighbor, Corey Gibson, yelled at the two boys and threatened to call the police, they hid behind a bush. Then the boys got up and "went back to doing what they w[ere] doing." Id. at 150. The boys were in the backyard throwing the bottles for "[a] good twenty minutes." Id.

A little later, J.P. and J.W. took some gasoline from J.P.'s shed and went to the Riverview Terrace Apartments' maintenance barn, where the apartment complex stored its lawnmower, snow blower, tools, gasoline, and hay. One of the boys then set fire to a bale of hay that was behind the barn, and the barn subsequently caught on fire. As the two boys were running away, J.P. told J.W. that he would "beat" up J.W. or "stab" him if he told on J.P. Id. at 168. The fire resulted in approximately $12,000.00 in damage to the barn and its contents.

That same day, around 7:26 p.m., an officer with the Huntington Police Department discovered the burning barn at the Riverview Terrace Apartments and requested fire units. When Officer Travis Bickel went to the Riverview Apartments as backup, the firefighters on the scene indicated that they thought the fire was an accident caused by spontaneous combustion.

Officer Bickel left Riverview Apartments, and around 7:56 p.m., was dispatched to the Horace Mann Apartments on a report that two juvenile boys had been throwing glass bottles on fire into the apartment parking lot around 7:00 p.m. When Officer Bickel arrived at the apartments, some of the residents directed him to J.P.'s house as the place where the bottle throwing had originated.

Officer Bickel went to J.P.'s house, where he found J.P., his mother, Tonya, and his twelve-year-old sister, Je.P., and asked them about the bottle-throwing activity in their backyard. They reported that they had just gotten back from Wal-Mart and that J.P. could not have been involved. Tonya told the officer that J.P. had been in her sight all day because he was on house arrest.1 J.P. then admitted that he had been outside in the backyard to get something out of the shed for his mother. Officer Bickel and another officer on the scene went with J.P. and his mother to J.P.'s backyard to look at the shed and saw some "burn spots" in the alley, a burnt beer bottle in the neighbor's yard, and broken glass jars in the Horace Mann Apartments' parking lot. Id. at 113. Tonya then admitted that J.P. went outside but told the officers that she had kept J.P. in sight even when he was outside. J.P. then told the officers that his cousin, Daniel caught a boy "Jonathan Brown" messing around in J.P.'s shed but that Daniel chased him away and told him to leave.2 Id. at 117. J.P.'s sister then corrected J.P. and said that the boy's name was J.W.

Corey Gibson, the neighbor who had threatened to call the police, appeared in the alley to talk to Officer Bickel. Gibson told Officer Bickel that he saw two juvenile males throwing bottles, described what both males were wearing, and pointed to J.P., who was still standing in the backyard, as one of the boys involved. When Officer Bickel returned to J.P. and his mother in their yard and indicated that Gibson had pointed out J.P. as one of the boys involved in the bottle throwing, J.P. stated that he had been in the backyard and Tonya stated there were times that she did not see J.P. when he was in the yard and that he had been in her sight for only ninety percent of the day. Officer Bickel talked to J.P.'s probation officer about J.P.'s house arrest. Officer Bickel then arrested J.P. for false informing and violating house arrest and placed him in the juvenile detention facility.

On May 23, 2005, the State filed a petition alleging that J.P. was a delinquent child for committing an act that would be false informing as a class A misdemeanor if committed by an adult under cause number 35C01-0505-JD-48 (Cause #48). That same day, the juvenile court held an initial hearing and, pursuant to J.P.'s request for counsel, appointed counsel to represent J.P.

On June 2, 2005, Officer Bickel was able to locate and speak with J.W. and his mother about J.W.'s involvement in the bottle-throwing incident. J.W. admitted to being in J.P.'s backyard with J.P. and throwing the flaming bottles. J.W. then surprised Officer Bickel by telling him that he and J.P. started the barn fire at the Riverview Terrace Apartments. Prior to J.W.'s admission, Officer Bickel did not believe the bottle-throwing incident and the barn fire incident were related.

Based on this new information, Officer Bickel arranged a second interview with J.P. on June 4, 2005 to speak with him about the barn fire. Officer Bickel first met and talked with J.P.'s mother, Tonya, at the police station, and later, Officer Bickel and Officer Brian Double retrieved J.P. from the juvenile detention facility and took him to the police station. Officer Bickel informed J.P. and Tonya of J.P.'s Miranda rights and offered them an opportunity for "meaningful consultation[.]" Id. at 127. Tonya refused the opportunity for meaningful consultation, and J.P. and Tonya signed a Miranda warning and waiver form. Tonya remained with J.P. as Officer Bickel questioned him. Officer Bickel asked J.P. questions about the barn fire only and did not question him regarding the bottle-throwing incident or the false informing charges. During the interview, J.P. first denied having any knowledge about the barn. J.P. then stated that he saw smoke from his house and that he and his cousin Daniel rode their bikes to the apartment complex and saw the barn on fire. However, J.P. denied being at the barn when it was set on fire. After Officer Bickel told J.P. that J.W. had given a written statement indicating that J.P. was at the barn when the fire started and was actually the one who started the fire, J.P. then stated that he did go to the barn with J.W. after J.W. took gasoline out of J.P.'s shed. J.P. stated that J.W. then poured the gasoline on some hay behind the barn and set it on fire and that after J.W. lit the barn on fire, they both ran away. Officer Bickel then asked J.P. if he would make a written statement, and J.P. responded that he had an attorney and that his attorney told him not to say anything to the police. Officer Bickel ended the interview and transported J.P. back to the juvenile facility.

On June 5, 2005, Officer Bickel spoke again with J.W. and told him that J.P. implicated J.W. as the one that started the fire. Officer Bickel took J.W. to the barn, and J.W. provided the officer with additional details regarding the barn fire but continued his insistence that it was J.P. that started the fire.

On June 13, 2005, the State filed a petition alleging that J.P. was a delinquent child for committing acts that would be aiding in arson as a class B felony3 and criminal recklessness as a class B misdemeanor4 if committed by an adult under cause number 35C01-0506-JD-53 (Cause #53).

On June 20, 2005, J.P. filed a motion to suppress all evidence of his June 4th statement given to Officer Bickel, alleging that his statement was taken in violation of his right to counsel when the police initiated contact with him and interrogated him after he had requested appointed counsel in his false informing case, Cause #48. During the suppression hearing, the State stipulated that the police initiated contact with J.P. and that it was a custodial interrogation. Officer Bickel testified that because J.P. was a juvenile, he made sure that J.P.'s mother was present and that he offered them an opportunity for meaningful consultation. Officer Bickel also testified that during his June 4 interview with J.P. and his mother, he questioned J.P. about the barn arson only and did not question him about the bottle-throwing incident or the false informing charges. Officer Bickel further testified that before talking to J.P. regarding the arson, he contacted the prosecutor's office about interviewing J.P. a second time and "to make sure that [he] didn't violate any of [J.P.'s] rights, make sure that [he] did everything legally and in the correct way." Id. at 60. The juvenile court denied J.P.'s motion to suppress.

Thereafter, J.P. filed a notice of alibi defense, alleging that he was with his mother on May 21, 2005 from 7:20 to 7:40 p.m. On November 10, 2005, the juvenile court held a fact finding hearing on Cause #48 and Cause #53. During the hearing, J.P. objected to the admission of Officer Bickel's testimony regarding J.P.'s statements obtained during the June 4 interview based on "a violation of his 5th and 14th uh, amendment rights to have counsel present during any interrogation." Id. at 129. The juvenile court overruled J.P.'s objection and allowed Officer Bickel to testify about J.P.'s statements...

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