Landress v. State

Decision Date15 October 1992
Docket NumberNo. 45S00-8911-CR-837,45S00-8911-CR-837
Citation600 N.E.2d 938
PartiesCindy Lou LANDRESS, Appellant, v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee.
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

James F. Stanton, Crown Point, for appellant.

Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen., Arthur Thaddeus Perry, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee.

KRAHULIK, Justice.

Cindy Lou Landress was found guilty by a jury of "felony murder", Ind.Code Sec. 35-42-1-1(2), in connection with the death of Leonard Fowler during a robbery. The jury also recommended the death penalty. Landress was sentenced to death pursuant to Ind.Code Sec. 35-50-2-9. In this direct appeal pursuant to Indiana Rules of Appellate Procedure 4(A)(7) and Ind.Code Sec. 35-50-2-9(h), Landress does not challenge the jury's determination of guilt, but presents several issues challenging the imposition of the death penalty.

We believe that one issue is dispositive and conclude that the evidence is insufficient to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Landress had the intent to kill required to impose the death penalty.


The evidence relevant to this appeal is as follows. In the early hours of April 23, 1988, Landress and Lewellen were driven to the home of Lewellen's parents by Lewellen's daughter, Julie. Julie testified that when Lewellen returned to the car from the house, he showed Julie and Landress a butterfly knife. Landress said, "That's nothing, look at this," and showed them a buck knife. Landress indicated that she and Lewellen planned to go "rolling". Julie understood this to mean that they were going to knock someone out and take that person's money. On instructions from Landress, Julie stopped the car near Leonard Fowler's home where Landress and Lewellen got out. Landress told Julie not to tell anyone what she had seen or heard that evening. At trial, Julie identified the buck knife, one of the knives found at the murder scene, as the one Landress had shown her. Lewellen was found in possession of the butterfly knife at the time he was arrested.

Landress testified that after being dropped off, she proceeded to Fowler's home where she was living at the time. She was awakened by Fowler at about nine o'clock in the morning on April 23 when Lewellen arrived. Landress got out of bed and began talking and drinking with Lewellen and Fowler in the kitchen. She testified that Lewellen suddenly threatened Fowler with a knife and forced Fowler to lie face down on the floor. Following Lewellen's instructions, Landress brought an extension cord and suspenders, which Lewellen used to tie up Fowler. Lewellen removed Fowler's wallet and handed it to Landress.

Landress went into the kitchen with the wallet, removed the money from it, and urged Lewellen to leave the house with her. At that point, she observed that Fowler had escaped and was in his bedroom loading his shotgun. When she told Lewellen of this development, he ran to the bedroom and began stabbing Fowler. Landress attempted to break up the fight, but was unable to do so. She obtained a knife from the kitchen and returned to the bedroom. She testified that she did not rejoin the struggle, but dropped the knife in the doorway. Her intent was to stop the fight between the two men. At some point, Landress received a deep cut to the palm of her hand. Lewellen then announced that Fowler was dead, and instructed Landress to take the keys to Fowler's truck. Landress removed the keys from a front pocket of Fowler's pants, and the two left Fowler's home in his truck. Eventually they made their way to California where they were captured approximately two weeks later.

Leonard Fowler was found dead in his home. His death was caused by multiple stab wounds to his abdomen which severed a large artery, causing him to bleed to death. One knife blade, separated from the handle, and two knives were recovered at the crime scene. Fowler's daughter identified the blade as having belonged to a knife missing from the kitchen. Fowler's blood was identified on this blade. Human blood was found on the blade of the buck knife, but the police were unable to determine whose blood was present. There was an indication that blood was present on the other knife, but it could not be identified.

Landress proceeded to trial on two counts: Count I charged murder in the perpetration of a robbery (felony murder), Ind.Code Sec. 35-42-1-1(2), and Count II sought the death penalty for Landress' participation in an intentional killing during a robbery pursuant to Ind.Code Sec. 35-50-2-9(b)(1)(G).

Sufficiency of the Evidence on Intent to Kill

Landress claims that there was not sufficient evidence of her intent to kill necessary to impose the death penalty. We agree.

Where sufficiency of the evidence is challenged on review, this Court neither reweighs the evidence nor determines the credibility of witnesses. Green v. State (1992), Ind., 587 N.E.2d 1314, 1315. Instead, we look to the evidence most favorable to the verdict together with all reasonable inferences therefrom. Id. We then determine whether there is substantial evidence of probative value from which the trier of fact might reasonably have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Landress was originally charged with a knowing or intentional murder, Ind.Code Sec. 35-42-1-1(1). The information was amended in December, 1988, by the addition of a count which sought the death penalty pursuant to Ind.Code Sec. 35-50-2-9 for an intentional killing during a robbery. In February 1989, a count for felony murder, Ind.Code Sec. 35-42-1-1(2) was added. On May 15, 1989, the day trial began, the State moved to dismiss the count charging a knowing or intentional murder. That dismissal left only the charge of felony murder in the guilt phase of the trial. Thus, during the guilt phase, the State was not required to prove that Landress had any intent to kill the victim, but only that Landress intended to rob and that the victim was killed during the robbery. Ind.Code Sec. 35-42-1-1(2) and Ind.Code Sec. 35-42-5-1. The jury properly was instructed during the guilt phase that Landress was criminally responsible for the actions of Lewellen "which were a probable and natural consequence of their common plan even though not intended as part of the original plan." She was convicted and the jury was reconvened to consider a recommendation of death.

The burden of proof on the issue of intent changed dramatically during the penalty phase of the trial. In that portion of the trial, the State was required to prove Landress had the intent to kill, Ind.Code Sec. 35-50-2-9(b)(1)(G); her confederate's intent could not be imputed to her. Enmund v. Florida (1982), 458 U.S. 782, 102 S.Ct. 3368, 73 L.Ed.2d 1140.

The defendant in Enmund was the driver of a "getaway car" whose confederates robbed and killed an elderly farm couple. During the robbery, the defendant remained in the car, and was not present when the victims were actually confronted and killed. The defendant was sentenced to death under Florida statutes. The United States Supreme Court concluded that the death penalty could not be imposed on one who never intended to kill. Noting that because there was no evidence that the defendant intended to participate in or facilitate a murder, the Supreme Court held that to punish the defendant and his confederates alike by making the defendant vulnerable to the death penalty on account of his confederates' actions, would violate the Eighth Amendment. 458 U.S. at 799, 102 S.Ct. at 3377, 73 L.Ed.2d at 1158.

This Court discussed Enmund in Resnover v. State (1984), Ind., 460 N.E.2d 922, cert. den. 469 U.S. 873, 105 S.Ct. 231, 83 L.Ed.2d 160. There, we stated that Enmund "dictates the rule that although vicarious liability for crimes perpetrated by one's confederates can justify one's conviction for said crimes, the imposition of death upon a vicariously guilty defendant must be based on his culpability, not on that of those who committed the robbery and shot the victims for [the United States Supreme Court] insist[s] on individualized consideration as a constitutional requirement in imposing the death sentence." 460 N.E.2d at 935 (citations omitted).

Here, during the guilt phase of the trial, the jury was instructed that the actions and intent of Lewellen could be imputed to her for purposes of conviction for felony murder. This is, of course, proper. Such is not the case, however, during the penalty phase. As Resnover and its progeny tell us, during the penalty phase when a defendant is facing the death penalty, the factfinder's focus must be on that particular defendant's participation and culpability. Landress claims that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support the conclusion that she formed the requisite intent to kill. We agree.

Intent to kill need not be established by direct evidence; circumstantial evidence is sufficient. Corbin v. State (1990), Ind., 563 N.E.2d 86, 88. Landress' statement the night before the killing that she and Lewellen were going "rolling" evidenced her intent to rob, not to kill. Direct evidence of her intent came from her own testimony in which she denied having had any such intent to kill, and denied having stabbed Fowler. She testified that Lewellen and the victim were fighting...

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