Moore v. State

Decision Date03 October 1986
Docket NumberNo. 185S10,185S10
Citation498 N.E.2d 1
PartiesCurtis MOORE, Appellant, v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee.
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

Rick L. Jancha, South Bend, for appellant.

Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen., Lisa M. Paunicka, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee.

PIVARNIK, Justice.

Defendant-Appellant Curtis Moore was convicted of Robbery, a class A felony, by a jury in the St. Joseph County Superior Court. He was sentenced to a term of forty-two (42) years and now appeals, raising the following errors:

1. admitting certain hearsay evidence;

2. admitting Appellant's confessions and admissions when the State had failed to establish the corpus delicti;

3. admitting statements which were not intelligently and voluntarily given; and

4. sufficiency of the evidence.

On May 12, 1983, Officer Terry Allen of the South Bend Police Department was dispatched to investigate an occurrence at Renoy Vrient's residence. When Officer Allen entered the home he found Vrient seriously injured and lying on the floor, discovered a window screen removed from a bathroom window, and realized an intruder had gained entrance through that window. Officers Allen and Shock dusted for fingerprints after getting aid for Vrient. On that same day, Appellant admitted to his cousin, Noah Rucker, with whom he lived, that he had broken into Vrient's home, assaulted him, and stole money and a truck. Shortly thereafter, Appellant fled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Rucker later discovered a RCA X-L 100 television set in Appellant's room. Rucker transported the television to the home of Ann Harris, Rucker's girlfriend.

Thereafter, Officer Vincent Laurita located the victim's truck and impounded it. During a search of the vehicle, Officer Laurita found a piece of paper with the name "Noah Rucker" written on it. On May 21, 1983, the victim died. The following day, Officer Raymond Sucik of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Police Department, arrested Appellant on suspicion of the murder committed in South Bend, Indiana. Officer Roosevelt Harrell of the Milwaukee Police Department, read Appellant the Miranda warning. At this time, Appellant acknowledged his understanding of his rights but refused to sign a waiver form. While Appellant admitted he had been in South Bend around the time the robbery occurred, he denied involvement in any offenses and refused to elaborate further.

Officers Laurita and Walton of the South Bend Police Department arrived in Milwaukee on May 27, 1983, to transport Appellant back to South Bend. Once again, the officers read the Miranda warning to Appellant. However, this time Appellant signed the waiver form and Officers Walton and Laurita took Appellant's first statement. During this interview, Appellant was responsive, cooperative, and never requested the assistance of counsel. Appellant informed the officers that during the early morning hours of May 12, 1983, he and Noah Rucker, entered Vrient's home through a window. While Rucker and Vrient struggled, Appellant searched for and stole money and a television set. Appellant and Rucker then placed the television into Vrient's truck and fled.

After taking Appellant's statement, Laurita and Walton transported Appellant to South Bend. En route, Appellant informed Walton that he wanted to correct his earlier statement. Walton told Appellant an advisement of rights would be given and a second statement could be made in South Bend. The following day, May 28, 1983, Appellant was again advised of his rights, indicated his understanding, and signed a waiver form. He then proceeded to give a second statement in which he admitted to acting alone in the robbery. He stated he entered Vrient's residence by prying a screen from a window. Vrient, armed with a weapon, confronted Appellant. Appellant beat him and bound his hands and feet. Appellant then stole money, a television set, a .22 caliber weapon and truck.

After Appellant was arrested, Officer Lulu fingerprinted him. Clyde Ottinger, a fingerprint specialist employed by the FBI, compared Appellant's fingerprints with prints lifted from areas in the victim's home and determined they were from the same individual. Finally, through the use of serial numbers, it was determined that the television recovered from Harris' residence was purchased by the victim. At the conclusion of this evidence, the jury convicted Appellant of Robbery resulting in bodily injury.

I

Appellant alleges the trial court erred by allowing Officer Allen to testify as to what he observed on the victim's wallet upon discovering the victim. Officer Terry Allen of the South Bend Police Department testified that on May 12, 1983, he was assigned to an investigation at 2306 Longley Avenue in South Bend, at approximately 1:30 a.m. When he arrived he observed an individual lying on his back on the floor in the den. He was asked if he made an identification of the individual. Allen indicated that he found a wallet with a man's name on it. He was asked to give the name. The defense objected that such a question called for hearsay and that the best evidence would be the wallet. The trial court overruled the objection and allowed Allen to state the wallet contained the name Renoy Vrient.

Appellant's first contention, that Officer Allen's testimony was inadmissible hearsay, is unfounded. Hearsay evidence is in-court testimony about an extra-judicial statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted therein. Such evidence is objectionable when the value of the testimony rests on the credibility of the declarant and the declarant is not in court or is otherwise unavailable for cross-examination. Grimes v. State (1983) Ind., 450 N.E.2d 512, 522. We agree, however, with the State that the information in the wallet was not put into evidence to prove the truth of what the information stated but was put in to explain Allen's actions. Dr. Koscielski identified the victim when he testified he knew the victim and his name was Renoy Vrient. Allen's testimony gave continuity to Dr. Koscielski's testimony and explained Allen's observations and the actions he took afterwards. As such, Allen's testimony did not constitute hearsay. Wagner v. State (1985), Ind., 474 N.E.2d 476, 491. The testimony was proper and the trial court did not err in permitting Officer Allen to testify as to the name on the wallet.

Appellant next contends that Officer Allen should not have been permitted to testify as to what name was displayed on the wallet because of the best evidence rule. The best evidence rule, referred to by this Court as the original documents rule, applies to a document that is used to prove a material fact in the case. Where the document is not central to litigation, the original documents rule does not apply. Darnell v. State (1982), Ind., 435 N.E.2d 250, 254. Here the name on the wallet was not central to the prosecution of Appellant. Moreover, Dr. Koscielski identified the victim and this identity was undisputed. Accordingly, Appellant was not prejudiced and the trial court did not err by allowing Officer Allen to testify as to the name on the wallet.

II

Appellant claims there were several incidents of the trial court erroneously admitting testimony because the State failed to establish the requisite corpus delicti. The testimony consists of the following incidents. Appellant gave the police two statements confessing his involvement after his arrest which were admitted over his objection. Appellant also objected to Noah Rucker's testimony recounting admissions made by Appellant to him. Finally, Officer Walton, who transported Appellant from Milwaukee to South Bend, testified over Appellant's objection that en route Appellant stated he wanted to correct the first statement he gave the police. Walton advised Appellant he could do so when they arrived in South Bend. On appeal, Appellant argues the trial court erred by admitting these out of court statements without evidence of the corpus delicti, in other words, without sufficient evidence to prove that the crime charged had actually been committed.

The trial court, however, did not err in this respect as there was sufficient evidence, independent of Appellant's out of court statements, to establish the corpus delicti. To establish the corpus delicti, evidence independent of a defendant's statement must be presented which shows that a criminal act actually occurred. Graham v. State (1984), Ind., 464 N.E.2d 1, 7, reh. denied. In order for a confession to be admitted at trial, corroborating evidence of the corpus delicti must be introduced. Hudson v. State (1978), 268 Ind. 310, 313, 375 N.E.2d 195, 196. However, although it is preferable to first establish the corpus delicti before offering a confession or statement against interest by a defendant, it is not necessary. The order of proof is within the sound discretion of the trial court. Evans v. State (1984), Ind., 460 N.E.2d 500, 502. Further, circumstantial evidence may establish the corpus delicti and it need not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Graham, supra. There was ample evidence presented in this case to prove the corpus delicti. Officer Allen arrived at Renoy Vrient's residence and discovered Vrient, lying bound and seriously injured on the floor in the den. A screen had been removed from the bathroom window, and the area appeared as if someone had entered through the window. Vrient's truck, television, and other items were missing. Later, Officer Laurita located Vrient's truck, and during a search of it found a piece of paper with "Noah Rucker" written on it. Meanwhile, Rucker, with whom Appellant resided, discovered a RCA XL 100 television set in Appellant's room after Appellant fled to Milwaukee. Through the use of serial numbers, it was shown that Vrient had purchased that television set. Further, Clyde Ottinger, a FBI fingerprint specialist, compared Appellant's fingerprints with those lifted from areas in the victim's home and determined the prints were made...

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