Sims v. State

Decision Date04 January 1977
Docket NumberNo. 1275S353,1275S353
Citation265 Ind. 647,358 N.E.2d 746
PartiesElmer Ray SIMS and Willie Lee Irons, Appellant, v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee.
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

Martin H. Kinney, Merrillville, for appellants.

Theodore L. Sendak, Atty. Gen., Wesley T. Wilson, Deputy Atty. Gen., for appellee.


The Appellants, Elmer Ray Sims and Willie Lee Irons, were convicted on July 10, 1975, of first dgreee murder. The Appellants were sentenced to life imprisonment on July 21, 1975. The motion to correct errors of Appellant Irons was filed on July 31, 1975, and was overruled on August 28, 1975. The motion to correct errors of Appellant Sims was filed on September 12, 1975, and was overruled on October 3, 1975.

The Appellants were convicted on the strength of confessions made by each to Gary, Indiana, police. The confession of Appellant Irons admitted into evidence at trial stated that he and his codefendant were drinking wine and making some noise in the backyard of the decedent's home when the decedent came out of the house and shouted at them. When he went back inside, he was followed by Appellant Sims, who was in turn followed by Irons. According to this statement, Appellant Irons had stopped in the kitchen of the house when he heard a shot and saw his codefendant come running from another room with a gun in his hand. They then ran from the house together.

The confession of Appellant Sims differs in that he states that he and his codefendant were engaged in a burglary attempt of the home of the decedent when the shooting took place. It was his statement that Irons went up the stairs of the home and shot the decedent upon being discovered by him. There is, therefore, no joint statement showing a joint enterprise or conspiracy.

Other than these statements, there was no other evidence or testimony connecting the Appellants with the crime in this case. No fingerprints were admitted into evidence. No results of any ballistics tests were introduced, though the prosecution unsuccessfully sought to introduce a gun into evidence. There was a lack of presentaton of what may be regarded as routine evidence in this trial, and the clear absence of thorough preparation in the prosecution of this case. Because there were no witnesses to the crime in question, the admissibility of the Appellants' confessions is crucial to their convictions. We find that those confessions were not admissible in the joint trial in this case and reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Indiana has long upheld the general rule that an extrajudicial confession made by one codefendant not in the presence of the other defendant is not admissible in evidence as against the codefendant not present when the statement was made. Quarles v. State (1965), 247 Ind. 32, 211 N.E.2d 167. Should it be shown that the statement or admission was made by a coconspirator within the scope of the conspiracy, this rule of exclusion does not apply. Berridge v. State (1976), Ind.App., 340 N.E.2d 816. There was no foundation laid in this case to show that the codefendants were acting in concert as part of a conspiracy, nor was there any showing that the confessions in this case were made within the scope of such a conspiracy. The general rule of exclusion is therefore to be applied.

Confessions such as in this case, inadmissible as against codefendants, are nonetheless admissible as against the defendant who confesses. A joint trial, however, makes the admission of such a statement difficult. In Bruton v. United States (1968), 391 U.S. 123, 88 S.Ct. 1620, 20 L.Ed.2d 476, the United States Supreme Court held that the admission into evidence at a joint trial of a confession by a codefendant which implicates another defendant, when the declarant does not testify and is therefore not subject to cross-examination, violates the implicated defendant's right of confrontation under the Constitution. Separate trials are required, if the confession is to be admitted, or suitable excisions must be made to eliminate all reference to the other defendant. Admonishment by the trial court to the jury to consider such evidence only against the declarant is not sufficient.

This court enunciated the principles of Bruton in Monserrate v. State (1971), 256 Ind. 623, 271 N.E.2d 420, and Baniszewski v. State (1970), 256 Ind. 1, 261 N.E.2d 359, among others. In response to this case law, the Legislature enacted Ind. Code § 35--3.1--1--11 (Burns 1975), which reads in part:

'* * *

(b) Whenever two (2) or more defendants have been joined for trial in the same indictment or information and one or more defendants move for a separate trial because another defendant has made an out-of-court statement which makes reference to the moving defendant but is not admissible as evidence against him, the court shall require the prosecutor to elect one (1) of the following courses:

(1) a joint trial at which the statement is not admitted into evidence;

(2) a joint trial at which the statement is admitted into evidence only after all references to the moving defendant have been effectively deleted; or (3) granting the moving defendant a separate trial.

In all other cases, upon motion of the defendant or ...

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14 cases
  • Jefferson v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • 30 Enero 1980
    ...thus held to be reversible error. The Indiana courts have expressed agreement with the rule of law announced in Bruton. Sims v. State (1977), 265 Ind. 647, 358 N.E.2d 746; Monserrate v. State (1971), 256 Ind. 623, 271 N.E.2d 420; Baniszewski v. State (1970), 256 Ind. 1, 261 N.E.2d 359. Howe......
  • Fox v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • 30 Enero 1979
    ...will often be followed." See also Bruton v. United States, supra 391 U.S. at 123, 88 S.Ct. 1620, 20 L.Ed.2d 476; Sims v. State, (1977) Ind., 358 N.E.2d 746 at 748. Thus, where the evidence, as here, was entirely circumstantial, York's admission, as evidence of appellants' presence at the sc......
  • Carter v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • 31 Marzo 1977
    ...the redacted versions to be entered into evidence. This Court recently had this problem before it in the case of Sims & Irons v. State, (1976) Ind., 358 N.E.2d 746. In that case, the Court had excised the declarant's references to the co-defendants and substituted either a blank or the lett......
  • Simpson v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • 20 Enero 1994 the declarations of a co-conspirator or agent, Patton v. State (1960), 241 Ind. 645, 175 N.E.2d 11; see also Sims v. State (1977), 265 Ind. 647, 358 N.E.2d 746, 747, the State must lay an evidentiary foundation showing the existence of a conspiracy before the acts or declarations of one ......
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