Utley v. State, No. 82A04-9801-CR-14

Docket NºNo. 82A04-9801-CR-14
Citation699 N.E.2d 723
Case DateSeptember 18, 1998
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

Page 723

699 N.E.2d 723
Robert E. UTLEY, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
STATE of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.
No. 82A04-9801-CR-14.
Court of Appeals of Indiana.
Sept. 18, 1998.
Transfer Denied Nov. 18, 1998.

Page 725

Jeffery L. Lantz, Jon K. Aarstad, Evansville, for Appellant-Defendant.

Jeffrey A. Modisett, Attorney General, Rosemary L. Borek, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, for Appellee-Plaintiff.

OPINION

BAILEY, Judge.

Case Summary

Appellant-Defendant Robert E. Utley ("Utley") appeals his conviction, after a jury trial, of Failure to Stop and Remain at the Scene of an Accident, a class C felony. 1 We affirm Utley's conviction. However, we reverse and remand with instructions that the trial court vacate the restitution order. 2

Issues

I. Whether the trial court erred by refusing Utley's tendered instruction regarding the charge of Reckless Homicide.

II. Whether the trial court erred in instructing the jury regarding the mens rea element of the offense of Leaving the Scene of an Accident.

III. Whether the trial court abused its discretion by denying Utley's motion in limine requesting the prohibition of evidence relating to his sexual preference.

IV. Whether the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing Utley to the presumptive term of four years, and in addition, ordering him to make restitution by paying the victim's funeral expenses.

V. Whether Utley was denied his right to a fair trial by the State's closing argument to the effect that Utley had a duty to return to the scene of the accident after he learned that the victim had been injured.

Page 726

Facts

The largely undisputed evidence reveals that Utley and the victim had formerly been romantically involved for over eleven years. (R. 301-E) (Utley's voluntary statement to police). On October 13, 1996, Utley and the victim had an argument at a bar. (R. 301-E). Eventually Utley left the bar and the victim followed Utley to his car. (R. 301-E). As Utley drove out of the parking lot, he saw the victim running towards the side of the car. (R. 301-E, 447). Utley heard a thump. (R. 448). Another witness testified that he heard a loud crash, saw the victim flying through the air, and saw the Utley's car speed away. (R. 254). The victim died as a result of the injuries sustained in the collision. (R. 362).

Utley was charged with Reckless Homicide and Leaving the Scene of an Accident. (R. 6-7). After a trial, the jury acquitted Utley of Reckless Homicide, but convicted him of Leaving the Scene of an Accident. (R. 31-32). The trial court found that the aggravating and mitigating circumstances balanced each other out and sentenced Utley to the presumptive term of four years. (R. 704). Additionally, the trial court ordered Utley to make restitution by paying the victim's funeral expenses. (R. 704). Also, the trial court ordered Utley to complete 200 hours of community service as a condition of probation. 3 (R. 704). This appeal followed.

Discussion and Decision

I. Tendered Instruction

Utley argues that the trial court erred by refusing to give the jury the following tendered instruction:

You are instructed that a pedestrian has no right to proceed heedlessly into the path of a vehicle. A pedestrian must exercise ordinary care for his own safety. A pedestrian must at all times exercise ordinary care for his own safety and is required to use all of his own faculties to avoid any danger or injury to himself. If you find that the decedent did not use ordinary care and he was the contributory cause of his injury, then you must find the Defendant not guilty of the offense of Reckless Homicide.

As noted above, Utley was acquitted of the charge of Reckless Homicide. Accordingly, Utley cannot demonstrate any prejudice to his substantial rights flowing from the trial court's refusal to give this instruction. Therefore, we find no reversible error. See Tyson v. State, 619 N.E.2d 276, 300 (Ind.Ct.App.1993) (before a defendant is entitled to reversal, he must affirmatively show that there was error prejudicial to his substantial rights), trans. denied, cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1176, 114 S.Ct. 1216, 127 L.Ed.2d 562. In so holding, we reject Utley's contention that the instruction somehow could have influenced the jury's verdict regarding the offense of Leaving the Scene of an Accident.

II. Instructions No. 13 & 14

Utley argues the trial court erred by giving the following instructions over his objection:

Knowledge of the fact that an accident occurred is a necessary element of the proof required upon the prosecution, but this is not to say that the State must prove actual knowledge of an accident by the defendant to obtain a conviction. A jury may infer that a defendant knew that an accident occurred or that a person was injured from an examination of the circumstances of the event. Where conditions were such that the driver should have known that an accident occurred or should have reasonably anticipated that the accident resulted in injury or death to a person the requisite proof of knowledge is present.

....

Page 727

It is unnecessary for the state to prove that the defendant knew that the death resulted from his accident. This legal requirement of stopping after an accident is mandatory, whether or not a person is familiar with the law or not. In other words, ignorance of the law is no excuse in failing to stop after an accident as long as the defendant knew or should have known that an accident occurred. Likewise, the State need not prove that the defendant's failure to stop caused or contributed to the death. The State need only to prove that the accident resulted in the death of another person.

(R. 628-29; Final Instructions No. 13-14). Utley argues the instructions were not supported by the evidence because he did not claim ignorance of the law. Utley also argues that the instructions failed to inform the jury that the State was required to prove that Utley knew that the accident resulted in injury or death, citing Micinski v. State, 487 N.E.2d 150, 152-53 (Ind.1986).

Standard of Review

The instruction of the jury lies largely within the trial court's discretion. Jewell v. State, 539 N.E.2d 959, 961 (Ind.1989). Error in the instruction of the jury will not warrant reversal unless it is of such a nature that the jury is misled regarding the law on the case. Jackson v. State, 575 N.E.2d 617, 621 (Ind.1991). Jury instructions are to be considered as a whole and in reference to each other. Edgecomb v. State, 673 N.E.2d 1185, 1186 (Ind.1996). In considering whether the trial court erred in giving or refusing an instruction, the reviewing court determines whether the instruction correctly states the law, whether there is evidence in the record to support the giving of the instruction, and whether the substance of the instruction is covered by other instructions which are given. Fields v. State, 679 N.E.2d 1315, 1322 (Ind.1997).

In the present case, the first instruction tracks the following language from Micinski, 487 N.E.2d at 153:

The jury may infer that a defendant knew that an accident occurred or that people were injured from an examination of the circumstances of the event. Where conditions were such that the driver should have known that an accident occurred or should have reasonably anticipated that the accident resulted in injury to a person, the requisite proof of knowledge is present.

Thus, the trial court's instruction correctly stated the law. We cannot conclude that the jury was misled regarding the law in the case. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in instructing the jury.

III. Evidence of Utley's Sexual Preference

Utley argues the trial court should have granted his motion in limine and prohibited evidence reflecting upon his sexual preference at trial. Utley argues that the evidence was inadmissible character evidence, was irrelevant, and the danger of unfair prejudice substantially outweighed its probative value.

Standard of Review

The evidentiary rulings of a trial court are afforded great deference on appeal and are overturned only upon a showing of an abuse of discretion. Bacher v. State, 686 N.E.2d 791, 793 (Ind.1997); Thompson v. State, 671 N.E.2d 1165, 1171 (Ind.1996). A trial court's decision to admit evidence will not be reversed absent a showing of a manifest abuse of the trial court's discretion resulting in the denial of a fair trial. Minnick v. State, 544 N.E.2d 471, 477 (Ind.1989).

Indiana Evidence Rule 404 reads:

(a) Character Evidence Generally. Evidence of a person's character or a trait of character is not admissible for the purpose of proving action in conformity therewith on a particular occasion, ...

(b) Other Crimes, Wrongs, or Acts. Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other...

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29 practice notes
  • Krise v. State, No. 16A05-9809-CR-460.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • October 29, 1999
    ...will not disturb its decision absent a showing of abuse of that discretion resulting in the denial of a fair trial. Id.; Utley v. State, 699 N.E.2d 723, 727 (Ind.Ct.App.1998), trans. B. Evidentiary Harpoon Krise contends that the State's misconduct at trial injected an evidentiary harpoon i......
  • Patterson v. State, No. 46A03-9907-CR-252.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • June 14, 2000
    ...the jury will not warrant reversal unless it is of such a nature that the jury is misled regarding the law on the case. Utley v. State, 699 N.E.2d 723, 727 (Ind.Ct.App. 1998), trans. denied. When reviewing a trial court's refusal of jury instructions, this court applies a three part test: 1......
  • Roberts v. State, No. 47A01-9804-CR-152.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • June 30, 1999
    ...Ct.App.1998) ("the trial court's jury instructions are presumed to cure any improper statements made during trial"); Utley v. State, 699 N.E.2d 723, 730 (Ind.Ct.App.1998), trans. denied. Even if the prosecutor's line of questioning was improper, the error was cured by the trial court's inst......
  • Snow v. State, No. 45S03-1703-CR-169
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • June 22, 2017
    ...State , 740 N.E.2d 1247, 1250–51 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000) ; Sanders v. State , 724 N.E.2d 1127, 1131 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000) ; Utley v. State , 699 N.E.2d 723, 728–29 (Ind. Ct. App. 1998), trans. denied . And 77 N.E.3d 177res gestae has made its mark on this case as well: the State argued on appea......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
29 cases
  • Krise v. State, No. 16A05-9809-CR-460.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • October 29, 1999
    ...will not disturb its decision absent a showing of abuse of that discretion resulting in the denial of a fair trial. Id.; Utley v. State, 699 N.E.2d 723, 727 (Ind.Ct.App.1998), trans. B. Evidentiary Harpoon Krise contends that the State's misconduct at trial injected an evidentiary harpoon i......
  • Patterson v. State, No. 46A03-9907-CR-252.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • June 14, 2000
    ...the jury will not warrant reversal unless it is of such a nature that the jury is misled regarding the law on the case. Utley v. State, 699 N.E.2d 723, 727 (Ind.Ct.App. 1998), trans. denied. When reviewing a trial court's refusal of jury instructions, this court applies a three part test: 1......
  • Roberts v. State, No. 47A01-9804-CR-152.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • June 30, 1999
    ...Ct.App.1998) ("the trial court's jury instructions are presumed to cure any improper statements made during trial"); Utley v. State, 699 N.E.2d 723, 730 (Ind.Ct.App.1998), trans. denied. Even if the prosecutor's line of questioning was improper, the error was cured by the trial court's inst......
  • Snow v. State, No. 45S03-1703-CR-169
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • June 22, 2017
    ...State , 740 N.E.2d 1247, 1250–51 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000) ; Sanders v. State , 724 N.E.2d 1127, 1131 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000) ; Utley v. State , 699 N.E.2d 723, 728–29 (Ind. Ct. App. 1998), trans. denied . And 77 N.E.3d 177res gestae has made its mark on this case as well: the State argued on appea......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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