Taylor v. State

Decision Date01 October 1976
Docket NumberNo. 576S148,576S148
Citation355 N.E.2d 247,265 Ind. 433
PartiesLee Roy TAYLOR, Appellant, v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee.
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

Dennis E. Zahn, Ober, Symmes, Cardwell, Voyles & Zahn, Indianapolis, for appellant.

Theodore L. Sendak, Atty. Gen., Daniel Lee Pflum, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee.

DeBRULER, Justice.

Appellant was convicted in the Marion County Criminal Court, Division II, Honorable William J. Dougherty presiding, of the offense of possession of a controlled substance, heroin, in violation of former Ind.Code § 35--24.1--4--1(c) (Burns 1974 Supp.). 1 He was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment.

Appellant assigns as error: (1) the insufficiency of the evidence to support the verdict of the jury; (2) the giving of an instruction directing the jury to consider the testimony of the appellant, who did in fact testify, in the same manner as other witnesses.

I.

Appellant was arrested during a search of his house pursuant to a search warrant. A quantity of heroin was found in the pocket of the overcoat which the arresting officers had observed appellant wearing as he entered the house immediately prior to the search, and which the officers had him remove upon his arrest. The heroin was analyzed and weighed by a forensic chemist, who testified that it comprised approximately thirteen and one-half grams of heroin.

Appellant's argument as to the issue of sufficiency, as we understand it, is not that there is an absence of evidence to support any particular element of the crime, but that discrepancies between aspects of the testimony of the arresting officers require this Court to hold as a matter of law that there was no evidence from which it could be found beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant knowingly possessed heroin. Appellant further alleges that the discrepancies represent an 'obvious attempt by some of the states (sic) witnesses to distorte (sic) and hide the true factual situation.'

The discrepancies referred to are as follows: (1) whether one of the officers was in a parked vehicle or a vacant house during the surveillance of appellant's house which preceded the search; (2) whether one or two packages of heroin were taken from appellant; and (3) whether one of the officers donned a pair of coveralls to search the exterior of appellant's house.

The discrepancies alleged do exist between several officers' testimony. Appellant was free to, and presumably did, argue these discrepancies to the jury, which is the proper body for the determination of witnesses' credibility. We need not decide whether a record showing an attempt at intentional misrepresentation would require reversal of a conviction, for we are of the opinion that the discrepancies presented are such as could easily be the result of mistake, poor memory, or the confusion attendant upon a drug raid. The result of such inaccuracy on the officers' credibility was properly left to the jury. This Court assesses testimony and other evidence only to the extent necessary to determine whether there exists substantial evidence of probative value to support the finding of each element of the offense. Beard v. State, (1975) Ind., 323 N.E.2d 216, 218. Here we find such evidence as to each element of the crime with which appellant was charged, and therefore must conclude that the verdict is supported by sufficient evidence.

II.

The trial court gave the following final instruction to the jury over appellant's objection:

'INSTRUCTION NO. 29B

The defendant in this case has testified in his own behalf. His testimony should be taken and considered and weighed by you the same as that of any other witness in the case.'

Appellant argues that such an instruction may not be given over a defendant's objection, because it singles out the defendant's testimony and implies that it is suspect. Appellant cites Gross v. State, (1974) Ind., 306 N.E.2d 371, 372, 'calling attention to any witness' testimony or indicating in any manner the weight which should be given to a witness' testimony is improper.' This language was contained in the court's quotation of a defendant's objection in the Gross case. This Court did not express its approval of the language, and decided the case on different grounds. Gross is not authority for the proposition that singling out one witness for commentary is erroneous. However it is the law of this State that the court may not 'single out any special witness, personally, and burden his testimony with any suggestions which might indicate to the jury that in the opinion of the court such witness was liable to testify falsely.' Taylor v. State, (1972) 257 Ind. 664, 668, 278 N.E.2d 273, 276. Evans v. State, (1973) 261 Ind. 148, 300 N.E.2d 882; Cherry v. State, (1972) 258 Ind. 298, 280 N.E.2d 818. The rationale for this rule is that the expressing of an opinion by the court invades the jury's province of determining credibility. Turner v. State, (1972) 258 Ind. 267, 280 N.E.2d 621 (DeBruler, J., dissenting).

We have considered instructions on the credibility of a testifying defendant before. In Garvin v. State, (1970) 255 Ind. 215, 263 N.E.2d 371, an instruction was given as follows:

'The law does not compel the defendant to testify as a witness in his own behalf, but he has the right to do so. In this case the defendant has availed himself of this right and you have no right to disregard the testimony of the defendant on the ground alone that he is the defendant and stands charged with the commission of a crime, but you should take into consideration his interest in the result of the case in determining his credibility, and otherwise weigh his evidence as you weigh the evidence and determine the credibility of other witnesses.'

We held the giving of this instruction to be error because

'it singles out appellant's testimony and tells the jury that that testimony was to be judged in the same manner as the testimony of the other witnesses, with one exception, namely, the jury was to specially consider appellant's unique interest in the result of the case. In effect the jury was told that appellant's testimony was not to be treated in the same manner as the testimony of other witnesses but was to be weighed by a different and harsher rule.' 255 Ind. at 217--18, 263 N.E.2d at 372.

In numerous other cases, instructions charging the jury to consider the defendant's interest in the trial's outcome in considering his testimony have been condemned. Alder v. State, (1958) 239 Ind. 68, 154 N.E.2d 716 ('He is an interested witness, and you have the right to consider his interest in weighing his testimony . . ..'); Swanson v. State, (1943) 222 Ind. 217, 52 N.E.2d 616 ('. . . in...

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4 cases
  • Lottie v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • June 23, 1980
    ...by you the same as that of any other witness in this case. A similar instruction has been approved by this Court in Taylor v. State, (1976) 265 Ind. 433, 355 N.E.2d 247. Appellant admits it was proper for the court to instruct the jury on the competency of defendant as a witness, but claims......
  • Marbley v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • April 19, 1984
    ...and weighed the same as that of any other witness does not have to be given although there is no error in giving it. Taylor v. State, (1976) 265 Ind. 433, 355 N.E.2d 247. We also have held that the trial court did not commit error by modifying a defendant's tendered instruction by limiting ......
  • Hopper v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • March 17, 1986
    ...to be given, although the court would not have erred in giving them. Marbley v. State, (1984) Ind., 461 N.E.2d 1102; Taylor v. State, (1976) 265 Ind. 433, 355 N.E.2d 247. No error resulted from the court's Finally, Hopper submits that the court should have read his instruction 10, instead o......
  • Jackson v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • April 6, 1988
    ...is not error to either give this type of instruction or to refuse it. Marbley v. State (1984), Ind., 461 N.E.2d 1102. Taylor v. State (1976), 265 Ind. 433, 355 N.E.2d 247. There is no error. IV Appellant's instruction # 4 dealt with the credibility to be given the testimony of an accomplice......

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