Loy v. State, No. 981S236

Docket NºNo. 981S236
Citation436 N.E.2d 1125
Case DateJuly 08, 1982
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

Page 1125

436 N.E.2d 1125
Stephen Harold LOY, Appellant (Defendant Below),
v.
STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff Below).
No. 981S236.
Supreme Court of Indiana.
July 8, 1982.

Page 1126

Nile Stanton, Indianapolis, for appellant.

Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen., Carmen L. Quintana, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee.

PRENTICE, Justice.

Defendant (Appellant) was convicted of Murder, Ind.Code § 35-42-1-1 (Burns 1979), and sentenced to forty-five (45) years imprisonment. This direct appeal presents the following issues.

(1) Whether the trial court erred in admitting two sets of photographic slides into evidence.

(2) Whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain the verdict.

ISSUE I

At the Oakwood Trailer Park in the early morning hours of September 6, 1979, the Portland Fire Department extinguished a fire in the trailer of Bruce Lykins. Lykins' nude body was found lying face down in the bedroom. The hands and feet were tied to the bedposts. Debris and burned clothing covered the body. An autopsy revealed that Lykins died of asphyxiation by strangulation and that he was dead before the fire started.

A.

Over objection, the trial court admitted into evidence thirty-five (35) of thirty-eight (38) photographic slides, Exhibits D-1 to D-22; D-24 to D-31; D-33 to D-37, which depict the scene of the trailer after the fire. The slides appear in the record in the form

Page 1127

of 3 X 5 color photographs. They show the extensive damage done by the fire to the exterior of the trailer and to its contents. They also display several views of the deceased's body, as it was found, tied to the bed.

Defendant contends that the slides were irrelevant and inflamed the jury. He argues that arson was not in issue and that the evidence would show that fire was not the cause of death. He asserts that the slides were gruesome and that they displayed every "nook and cranny" of destruction to the trailer, which destruction was not relevant to the issue of the identity of Lykins' assailant.

The trial court's decision to admit photographs into evidence will be reversed only upon the showing of an abuse of discretion. Crane v. State, (1978) 269 Ind. 299, 303, 380 N.E.2d 89, 92. Admissibility involves the photograph's relevance, which may be determined by an inquiry as to whether a witness would be permitted to describe verbally the objects photographed.

The photographs at issue supplemented the testimony of a police officer who investigated the homicide. The State theorized that Defendant and another individual, whom Lykins may have planned to blackmail, killed Lykins and then set the trailer on fire to conceal the crime. The photographs, along with the officer's testimony, tended to prove the thoroughness and planning with which the perpetrators carried out their deed. They also acquainted the jury with the scene of the crime, which witnesses described. Vasseur v. State, (1982) Ind., 430 N.E.2d 1157, 1159; Kiefer v. State, (1958) 239 Ind. 103, 108, 153 N.E.2d 899, 900. In prior cases we have allowed the admission of photographs, which showed the scene of the homicide including the body of the deceased, despite their gruesome details. Drollinger v. State, (1980) Ind., 408 N.E.2d 1228, 1237; Bond v. State, (1980) Ind., 403 N.E.2d 812, 817; Chambers v. State, (1979) Ind., 392 N.E.2d 1156, 1160; Rogers v. State, (1979) Ind., 383 N.E.2d 1035, 1036; Crane v. State, supra; Hoover v. State, (1978) 268 Ind. 566, 571, 376 N.E.2d 1152, 1155-56; Brandon v. State, (1978) 268 Ind. 150, 155, 374 N.E.2d 504, 507; Wilson v. State, (1978) 268 Ind. 112, 116-17, 374 N.E.2d 45, 48. We find no abuse of discretion in the admission of these photographs.

B.

Defendant also contends that thirteen (13) photographic slides, Exhibits E-1, E-2, E-4 to E-14, which were admitted over objection and shown to the jury, were irrelevant, gruesome, and inflammatory. The slides appear in the record as 3 X 5 color photographs of the autopsy. Defendant asserts that their prejudicial effect is not speculative. After viewing the slides, one juror expressed doubts about her ability to render an impartial decision. It appears from the record that she became emotionally distraught and began to cry when the trial judge discreetly and delicately questioned her about her reaction to the pictures.

In general these photographs are very unpleasant to view. They show the semi-charred remains of the deceased from different angles. They include close-ups of the joints where the rope had bound the body to the bedposts in the trailer. One photograph shows the deceased's head with a hand holding open the eyes.

In particular Exhibits E-13 and E-14 were the most distressing to the juror. E-13 displays the internal body cavity of the deceased. A gloved hand holds the heart which has a tag attached to it. E-14 depicts several internal organs in a tray after they had been removed from the body. Again a gloved hand holds a lung and another hand is placing a card bearing a number and the deceased's surname next to the lung.

The trial court accepted the juror's inability to continue and excused her in favor of the alternate juror. Defendant then moved for a mistrial and renewed his objection concerning the prejudicial and inflammatory effect of the autopsy photographs. The trial court overruled the motion for a mistrial

Page 1128

and admonished the jury not to allow the excused juror's emotional reaction to influence their consideration of the case.

In Kiefer v. State, supra, we reversed a conviction for First Degree Murder where the defendant had been sentenced to death. Over objection the trial court had admitted a photograph of the victim's body taken during the autopsy. The photograph showed the hands of a doctor and a nurse with instruments inside the victim's chest. Another photograph showed the victim's body after the autopsy had been completed. The Court cited and discussed several out of state cases in support of its holding:

"We recognize that photographs of a corpse are admissible in evidence, even though they portray a gruesome spectacle and may arouse passion and resentment against the defendant in the minds of the jury, but such photographs must be material and relevant and tend to prove or disprove some material fact in issue. 159 A.L.R.Anno. 1413, at page 1420.

"Photographs which show the body of a deceased during and after the autopsy was performed have been held inadmissible on the theory that they serve no material purpose and their only value is to arouse the emotions of the jury." 239 Ind. at 114, 153 N.E.2d at 903 (emphasis in original).

Since Kiefer we have not retreated from this rule. Photographs which showed the deceased's body before the pathologist's dismantling have been held admissible despite their gruesome or gory subject matter. These photographs allowed the jury to see the wounds or trauma inflicted upon the victim, and they were often accompanied by testimony from the pathologist about the cause of death. Rowan v. State, (1982) Ind., 431 N.E.2d 805, 816-17; Owens v. State, Ind., 431 N.E.2d 108, 111-12; Akins v. State, (1981) Ind., 429 N.E.2d 232, 236; Webster v. State, (1981) Ind., 426 N.E.2d 1295, 1298; Hightower v. State, (1981) Ind., 422 N.E.2d 1194, 1195-96; Smith v. State, (1981) Ind., 420 N.E.2d 1225, 1229; Drollinger v. State, (1980) Ind., 408 N.E.2d 1228, 1238; Bond v. State, supra; Bates v. State, (1977) 267 Ind. 8, 10-11, 366 N.E.2d 659, 660; Hewitt v. State, (1973) 261 Ind. 71, 76-77, 300 N.E.2d 94, 97-98; Torrence v. State, (1971) 255 Ind. 618, 621, 266 N.E.2d 1, 3; New v. State, (1970) 254 Ind. 307, 310-11, 259 N.E.2d 696, 699. We have noted that the rule of Kiefer has limited application, see Blevins v. State, (1973) 259 Ind. 618, 624-25, 291 N.E.2d 84, 88 (cases cited therein); however, the graphic portrayal of an autopsy by a photograph or photographs carries the potential for displaying more than the state of the victim's body at the time it was discovered. Such a display may impute the handiwork of the physician to the accused assailant and thereby render the defendant responsible in the minds of the jurors for the cuts, incisions, and indignity of an autopsy.

In this respect we think that the photographs, Exhibits E-13 and E-14, are similar to the autopsy photography in Warrenburg v....

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35 practice notes
  • Stephenson v. State, No. 87S00-9605-DP-398.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • January 25, 2001
    ...Allen v. State, 686 N.E.2d 760, 776 (Ind.1997), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 1073, 119 S.Ct. 807, 142 L.Ed.2d 667 (1999); Loy v. State, 436 N.E.2d 1125, 1128 (Ind.1982); Warrenburg v. State, 260 Ind. 572, 574-76, 298 N.E.2d 434, 435-6 (1973); cf., Kiefer v. State, 239 Ind. 103, 116-18, 153 N.E.2d......
  • Pruitt v. State, No. 15S00-0109-DP-393.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • September 13, 2005
    ...the defendant is responsible "for the cuts, incisions, and indignity of an autopsy." Allen, 686 N.E.2d at 776 (quoting Loy v. State, 436 N.E.2d 1125, 1128 (Ind.1982)). Pruitt argues that the pre-autopsy photograph is similar to an autopsy photograph because it shows Starnes's body bloated w......
  • Allen v. State, No. 49S00-9207-DP-566
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • September 25, 1997
    ...by the victim's hair, autopsy photographs are generally inadmissible if they show the body in an altered condition. Loy v. State, 436 N.E.2d 1125, 1128 (Ind.1982) ("Such a display may impute the handiwork of the physician to the accused assailant and thereby render the defendant responsible......
  • Grimes v. State, No. 1280S444
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • July 6, 1983
    ...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 Appellant also claims that the trial court com......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
35 cases
  • Stephenson v. State, No. 87S00-9605-DP-398.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • January 25, 2001
    ...Allen v. State, 686 N.E.2d 760, 776 (Ind.1997), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 1073, 119 S.Ct. 807, 142 L.Ed.2d 667 (1999); Loy v. State, 436 N.E.2d 1125, 1128 (Ind.1982); Warrenburg v. State, 260 Ind. 572, 574-76, 298 N.E.2d 434, 435-6 (1973); cf., Kiefer v. State, 239 Ind. 103, 116-18, 153 N.E.2d......
  • Pruitt v. State, No. 15S00-0109-DP-393.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • September 13, 2005
    ...the defendant is responsible "for the cuts, incisions, and indignity of an autopsy." Allen, 686 N.E.2d at 776 (quoting Loy v. State, 436 N.E.2d 1125, 1128 (Ind.1982)). Pruitt argues that the pre-autopsy photograph is similar to an autopsy photograph because it shows Starnes's body bloated w......
  • Allen v. State, No. 49S00-9207-DP-566
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • September 25, 1997
    ...by the victim's hair, autopsy photographs are generally inadmissible if they show the body in an altered condition. Loy v. State, 436 N.E.2d 1125, 1128 (Ind.1982) ("Such a display may impute the handiwork of the physician to the accused assailant and thereby render the defendant responsible......
  • Grimes v. State, No. 1280S444
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • July 6, 1983
    ...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 Appellant also claims that the trial court com......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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