State v. Farber, 82A05-9509-CR-372

Citation677 N.E.2d 1111
Case DateMarch 26, 1997
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

Page 1111

677 N.E.2d 1111
STATE of Indiana, Appellant-Plaintiff,
Timothy R. FARBER, Appellee-Defendant.
No. 82A05-9509-CR-372.
Court of Appeals of Indiana.
March 26, 1997.
Transfer Denied June 30, 1997.

Page 1112

Pamela Carter, Attorney General, Janet L. Parsanko, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, for Appellant-Plaintiff.

Allen R. Hamilton, Evansville, for Appellee-Defendant.


RUCKER, Judge.

Appellee-Defendant Timothy R. Farber filed a motion to suppress the evidence which the trial court granted. In this interlocutory appeal the State challenges the trial court's ruling. We address the following issues: 1) does the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine require the exclusion of evidence derived from conversations protected by the statutory spousal privilege; 2) was Farber's confession given knowingly and voluntarily; and 3) did the trial court err in suppressing evidence recovered from the home of Farber's

Page 1113

acquaintance. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

The record shows that on March 1, 1995 officers of the Evansville police department were summoned to an apartment building in connection with the stabbing death of Brian Lee Russell. Russell's body was found on the floor punctured with several stab wounds, telephone lines inside Russell's apartment had been severed, and two rings which Russell usually wore were missing. Farber, one of Russell's former employees, was among the initial suspects in the crime. During their investigation officers questioned Farber's wife who informed them that she suspected Farber was involved with Russell's death. Farber's wife agreed to wear a concealed body wire and to talk with Farber about the stabbing while officers would listen to the conversation. The plan proceeded accordingly. Farber and his wife sat in her car engaging in conversation during which Farber made several incriminating admissions. Approximately thirty minutes into the conversation, officers approached the car and asked Farber to accompany them to the police station. Farber complied. At the station Detective Guy Minnis advised Farber of his Miranda rights which Farber acknowledged and signed a waiver thereof. Thereafter Detective Minnis questioned Farber for several minutes and then accused him of killing Russell. Farber initially denied the accusation. The officer then advised Farber that his wife had implicated him in the crime, that she had been wearing a concealed wire earlier that day, and that officers had listened to the conversation. After a brief silence Farber admitted stabbing Russell with a knife and provided Detective Minnis with details of the alleged crime. Farber told the officer that he had thrown the knife into a lake along with a coffee can in which he had placed Russell's keys, wallet, and a towel Farber had used to wipe his bloody hands. He admitted removing two rings from Russell's home, one of which he had taken to a local pawn shop. In addition Farber told Detective Minnis that a pair of shoes and brown jacket that he was wearing on the night of the stabbing contained blood stains. He advised the officer that the clothing was inside either a duffel bag, suitcase, or plastic bag which could be found at the home of an acquaintance, Anthony Thompson. After obtaining Farber's consent officers seized Farber's baggage and without a warrant searched the contents. Officers also recovered the knife and coffee can from the lake.

Ultimately Farber was charged by information with one count of murder 1 and one count of robbery as a Class A felony. 2 Thereafter he filed a motion to suppress the evidence upon which a hearing was conducted. The trial court granted the motion in part concluding that the recorded conversation between Farber and his wife was privileged pursuant to I.C. § 34-1-14-5(5) and thus could not be introduced at trial. Relying on the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine the trial court also determined that neither Farber's confession nor any physical evidence seized as a result thereof could be introduced as evidence at trial. In addition the trial court determined that the warrantless search of Farber's duffel bag, suitcase, and a plastic bag was unconstitutional. Ultimately the trial court suppressed the following items: (1) the audio-taped conversation between Farber and his wife and any testimony regarding the contents of the recorded statement, (2) Farber's confession to police, (3) all physical evidence recovered from the lake, (4) Farber's clothing, and (5) blood test results performed on the clothing. This interlocutory appeal ensued in due course.


The State contends the trial court erred in granting Farber's motion to suppress. According to the State the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine does not require the exclusion of evidence obtained as a result of a conversation protected by a statutory spousal privilege. The State bears the burden of demonstrating the constitutionality of the measures it uses in securing information. State v. Ashley, 661 N.E.2d 1208, 1211 (Ind.Ct.App.1995). On appeal from the grant of a motion to suppress the State appeals from a

Page 1114

negative judgment and must show the trial court's ruling on the suppression motion was contrary to law. Id.; State v. Smith, 638 N.E.2d 1353, 1355 (Ind.Ct.App.1994), reh'g denied. We will reverse a negative judgment only when the evidence is without conflict and all reasonable inferences lead to a conclusion opposite that of the trial court. Ashley, 661 N.E.2d at 1211. We neither reweigh the evidence nor judge the credibility of witnesses; rather, we consider only the evidence most favorable to the judgment. Id.

Indiana Code § 34-1-14-5 provides in pertinent part as follows:

Except as otherwise provided by statute, the following persons shall not be competent witnesses:

* * *

(5) Husband and wife, as to communications made to each other.

Although the statute is phrased in terms of competency, the provision has been interpreted as affording a privilege subject to certain exceptions as well as waiver by the communicating spouse. Kindred v. State, 524 N.E.2d 279, 295 (Ind.1988); Hazelwood v. State, 609 N.E.2d 10, 15 (Ind.Ct.App.1993),...

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