Knowlton v. State, No. 3-578A113

Docket NºNo. 3-578A113
Citation382 N.E.2d 1004, 178 Ind.App. 420
Case DateNovember 29, 1978
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

Page 1004

382 N.E.2d 1004
178 Ind.App. 420
Robert KNOWLTON, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
STATE of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.
No. 3-578A113.
Court of Appeals of Indiana, Third District.
Nov. 29, 1978.

[178 Ind.App. 421]

Page 1005

James F. Groves of Noell, Groves & White, South Bend, for appellant-defendant.

Theo. L. Sendak, Atty. Gen., Michael Gene Worden, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee-plaintiff.

STATON, Judge.

A jury found Robert Knowlton guilty of Sodomy and he was sentenced to the Indiana Department of Corrections for a period of not less than two (2) nor more than fourteen (14) years. In his appeal to this court, Knowlton raises the following issues:

(1) Whether the sodomy statute, IC 1971, 35-1-89-1 (Burns Code Ed.), is unconstitutional by reason of its vagueness?

(2) Whether the evidence was sufficient to support his conviction?

We affirm.

I.

Constitutionality of Statute

Knowlton contends that the sodomy statute under which he was convicted, IC 1971, 35-1-89-1 (Burns Code Ed.) 1 is unconstitutional. He maintains that the statute's proscription of "abominable and detestable [178 Ind.App. 422] crimes against nature with mankind or beast" fails to adequately define the specific acts which fall within the ambit of its coverage. In support of his contention, Knowlton draws definitional distinctions between fellatio, the specific act with which he was charged, and sodomy, the title of the statute under which he was convicted.

Similar attacks on the sodomy statute have been rejected by the Indiana Supreme Court. Dixon v. State (1971), 256 Ind. 266, 268 N.E.2d 84; Miller v. State (1971), 256 Ind. 296, 268 N.E.2d 299; Estes v. State (1964), 244 Ind. 691, 195 N.E.2d 471. The most recent statement of the Supreme Court on the issue raised by Knowlton came in Critchlow v. State (1976), 264 Ind. 458, 346 N.E.2d 591. There, the Court stated:

Page 1006

"The various acts which are considered to be sodomy include the act of fellatio, which was alleged in this case . . . We, once again, hold the statute is constitutional and the crime described in the statute is applicable in the case at bar. . . . "

264 Ind. 458, 465, 346 N.E.2d 591, 596. Accordingly, the trial court properly denied Knowlton's motion to dismiss which challenged the constitutionality of the statute.

II.

Sufficiency of the Evidence

Knowlton also contends that the evidence was not sufficient to support the jury's conclusion that he was guilty of performing fellatio as charged. He specifically maintains that the State's evidence does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the penetration necessary to consummate the act of fellatio did in fact occur. While he concedes that a conviction for sodomy may rest entirely upon circumstantial evidence, it is Knowlton's contention that such conviction is valid only if the circumstantial proof includes evidence of an empirical or physical character.

When the sufficiency of the evidence is raised as an issue on appeal, we will look only at the evidence most favorable to the State, together with the reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom. If, from that viewpoint, there is substantial evidence of probative value to support the jury's verdict, we will not set aside the conviction. Henderson v. State (1976), 264 Ind. 334, 343 N.E.2d 776, 777.

[178 Ind.App. 423] We apply this test whether the evidence is circumstantial or direct. Ruetz v. State (1978), Ind., 373 N.E.2d 152, 156. Mitchell v. State (1977), Ind., 366 N.E.2d 183, 185. When a conviction rests wholly on circumstantial evidence, however, our determination of whether the evidence is sufficient must necessarily include an analysis of whether the inferences drawn by the jury are reasonable ones. Bruce v. State (1978), Ind., 375 N.E.2d 1042, 1080. The reasonable doubt standard requires that the inference be more than a mere suspicion. As our Supreme Court stated in Shutt v. State (1977), Ind., 367 N.E.2d 1376:

"If the inference drawn by the trier of facts must rest upon speculation or conjecture, it cannot be drawn beyond a reasonable doubt, and we are required to set it aside. 'It is not enough to sustain a conviction that the evidence, when given full faith and credit, may warrant a suspicion or amount to a scintilla.' Baker v. State (1956), 236 Ind. 55, 60, 138 N.E.2d 641, 644."

Id. at 1378.

The evidence most favorable to the State reveals that on June 8, 1977, Gerry Parker was patrolling Pottawatomi Park in South Bend, Indiana, as part of his duties as an employee of that city's Park Department. In response to citizen's complaints of disturbances in Pottawatomi's restroom area, Parker, who is also a full-time South Bend Policeman, made periodic inspections of the restroom area throughout the day. At about 3:00 P.M., Parker entered the men's restroom and encountered the defendant Knowlton and William Coffman.

Parker testified that Knowlton was on his knees facing Coffman, and that Knowlton's head was positioned directly in front of the groin area of Mr. Coffman. His presence briefly unnoticed by the two men, it was Parker's conclusion that based on the close proximity of the two men to each other, Knowlton and Coffman were "touching." Because Knowlton's head obscured Parker's view, he was unable to actually observe whether there was contact between Coffman's penis and Knowlton's mouth. Parker did observe that Coffman's hands were "down by his groin area."

According to Parker, after approximately two seconds had passed, Coffman glanced up and noticed him. Parker testified that Coffman then [178 Ind.App. 424] "pulled away from Mr. Knowlton," revealing Coffman's open pants and erect penis. Coffman went to a urinal and Knowlton, still on his knees, spat a "clear saliva type substance" onto the floor. Knowlton then went directly to a urinal, also. At that point Parker informed the

Page 1007

two men that he would meet them outside the restroom after they were finished at the urinals. The arrest of the two men followed shortly thereafter.

Knowlton contends that the circumstantial evidence presented here gives rise to a variety of inferences, ranging from the conclusion reached by the jury that penetration had occurred to the possibility that Knowlton had merely stooped to retrieve an item and Coffman had invited the sex act which the parties did not have an opportunity to consummate. In support of his...

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6 practice notes
  • In re J.D., No. COA 18-1036
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • August 20, 2019
    ...top of victim was sufficient to prove penetration); Marshall v. State , 94 Ark. App. 34, 223 S.W.3d 74, 78 (2006) ; Knowlton v. State , 178 Ind.App. 420, 382 N.E.2d 1004, 1008-09 (1978) (holding that eyewitness testimony that the defendant had assumed a position appropriate for a sexual act......
  • Crabtree v. State, No. 33A01-8901-CR-00023
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • December 7, 1989
    ...of one person and the mouth or anus of another person" did not require a showing of actual penetration. See, Knowlton v. State (1978), 178 Ind.App. 420, 382 N.E.2d 1004, 1009, n. 4; also, Omans v. State (1980), Ind.App., 412 N.E.2d 305, trans. denied. We believe this conclusion applies with......
  • Steadman v. State, No. 3-578A133
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • February 26, 1979
    ...whether the evidence is circumstantial or direct. Ruetz v. State (1978), Ind., 373 N.E.2d 152, 156; Knowlton v. State (1978), Ind.App., 382 N.E.2d 1004. As Steadman concedes, a conspiracy may be inferred from acts committed in an apparent criminal purpose and no actual agreement to have an ......
  • Downey v. State, No. 35A02-9904-CR-241.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • March 31, 2000
    ...547 N.E.2d 286, 291 (Ind.Ct.App.1989), for an act to "involve" the anus there must be contact with the anus. Cf. Knowlton v. State, 178 Ind. App. 420, 427 n. 4, 382 N.E.2d 1004, 1009 n. 4 (1978) (acknowledging in dicta that the act of fellatio did not require penetration and could be accomp......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • In re J.D., No. COA 18-1036
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • August 20, 2019
    ...top of victim was sufficient to prove penetration); Marshall v. State , 94 Ark. App. 34, 223 S.W.3d 74, 78 (2006) ; Knowlton v. State , 178 Ind.App. 420, 382 N.E.2d 1004, 1008-09 (1978) (holding that eyewitness testimony that the defendant had assumed a position appropriate for a sexual act......
  • Crabtree v. State, No. 33A01-8901-CR-00023
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • December 7, 1989
    ...of one person and the mouth or anus of another person" did not require a showing of actual penetration. See, Knowlton v. State (1978), 178 Ind.App. 420, 382 N.E.2d 1004, 1009, n. 4; also, Omans v. State (1980), Ind.App., 412 N.E.2d 305, trans. denied. We believe this conclusion applies with......
  • Steadman v. State, No. 3-578A133
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • February 26, 1979
    ...whether the evidence is circumstantial or direct. Ruetz v. State (1978), Ind., 373 N.E.2d 152, 156; Knowlton v. State (1978), Ind.App., 382 N.E.2d 1004. As Steadman concedes, a conspiracy may be inferred from acts committed in an apparent criminal purpose and no actual agreement to have an ......
  • Downey v. State, No. 35A02-9904-CR-241.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • March 31, 2000
    ...547 N.E.2d 286, 291 (Ind.Ct.App.1989), for an act to "involve" the anus there must be contact with the anus. Cf. Knowlton v. State, 178 Ind. App. 420, 427 n. 4, 382 N.E.2d 1004, 1009 n. 4 (1978) (acknowledging in dicta that the act of fellatio did not require penetration and could be accomp......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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