Williams v. State, No. 1280S443

Docket NºNo. 1280S443
Citation430 N.E.2d 759
Case DateJanuary 19, 1982
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

Page 759

430 N.E.2d 759
Larry WILLIAMS, Appellant (Defendant below),
v.
STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff below).
No. 1280S443.
Supreme Court of Indiana.
Jan. 19, 1982.

Page 761

Jere I. Humphrey, Plymouth, for appellant.

Page 762

Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen., Palmer K. Ward, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee.

HUNTER, Justice.

The defendant, Larry Williams, was convicted by a jury of murder, Ind. Code § 35-42-1-1(1) (Burns 1979 Repl.), felony murder, Ind. Code § 35-42-1-1(2) (Burns 1979 Repl.), armed robbery, a class A felony, Ind. Code § 35-42-5-1 (Burns 1979 Repl.), conspiracy to commit armed robbery, a class A felony, Ind. Code § 35-41-5-2 (Burns 1979 Repl.), and habitual offender, Ind. Code § 35-50-2-8 (Burns 1979 Repl.). The jury recommended a sentence of death for the murder count, Ind. Code § 35-50-2-9 (Burns 1979 Repl.), and defendant was thereafter sentenced to death, ninety years, thirty years, thirty years, and thirty years respectively.

His direct appeal challenges the legality of the death sentence and presents the following issues:

1. Whether our death sentence statute violates any of several constitutional proscriptions of either the United States Constitution or the Indiana Constitution or was unconstitutionally applied in this case;

2. Whether the trial court erred in sentencing defendant as an habitual offender where this charge was based upon the same two underlying felonies as were used in a prior habitual offender conviction;

3. Whether the trial court erred in permitting defendant's wife to testify over a claim of privilege;

4. Whether the trial court erred in allowing the state to amend the death penalty request after the case had been filed; and

5. Whether the trial court erred in sentencing defendant on both the felony murder and armed robbery counts when the armed robbery was the felony involved in the felony murder.

A summary of the facts from the record shows that on April 13, 1979, the victim, Jesse Hubbard, failed to report for work at his place of employment in Plymouth, Indiana. One of Hubbard's co-workers, Richard Birchmeier, became concerned about Hubbard's uncharacteristic absence and went to Hubbard's house. He noticed that the front door was slightly ajar and then saw Hubbard lying on the floor with blood on his head. Birchmeier immediately called the police. Testimony at the trial established that Hubbard had died from a stab wound to the heart. There was also a basal skull fracture which would have been a fatal wound apart from the stab wound.

A witness for the state, Larry Perkins, testified that he had entered into a plea bargain with the state involving three murders, including the Hubbard murder, in exchange for his testimony. He stated that on the evening of April 12, 1979, he and defendant had agreed to blackmail Hubbard and went to his house for that purpose. Perkins testified that another friend, George Redman, was in on the plan and agreed to be an alibi witness for Perkins. At Hubbard's house, defendant, Perkins and Hubbard watched TV, drank beer and smoked pot for awhile. Then Perkins and defendant decided they should rob Hubbard, so Perkins hit Hubbard on the head with his pistol. Defendant stabbed Hubbard several times with a butcher knife, then hit him with a whiskey bottle and with a piece of pipe. Finally, Perkins and defendant tried to wipe off their fingerprints. They took Hubbard's billfold, the beer and the pot and went to defendant's mother's house to split the money.

I.

(A) The defendant presents several arguments to the effect that our death penalty statute, Ind. Code § 35-50-2-9 (Burns 1979 Repl.) is unconstitutional. We have clearly held that this statute is not unconstitutional per se, as being in derogation of either the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States or Article 1, Sec. 16 of the Constitution of Indiana. Brewer v. State, (1981) Ind., 417 N.E.2d 889; Judy v. State, (1981) Ind., 416 N.E.2d 95. We have found that the death penalty may be imposed if the circumstances of the

Page 763

offense and the character of the offender both warrant. The procedural scheme set out in our statute limits the imposition of death sentences so as to insure that they will not be inflicted arbitrarily or capriciously. Brewer v. State, supra. This is in accord with the decisions and opinions of the United States Supreme Court. Gregg v. Georgia, (1976) 428 U.S. 153, 96 S.Ct. 2909, 49 L.Ed.2d 859; Proffitt v. Florida, (1976) 428 U.S. 242, 96 S.Ct. 2960, 49 L.Ed.2d 913; Jurek v. Texas, (1976) 428 U.S. 262, 96 S.Ct. 2950, 49 L.Ed.2d 929.

We have previously compared our statutory and procedural requirements under the death penalty statute with those found in the Florida and Georgia statutes which were upheld by the United States Supreme Court. We found that our present statute is very similar to the Florida statute and that our death sentencing procedures are consistent with and in full compliance with the requirements set forth by the Supreme Court in Proffitt v. Florida, supra, and Gregg v. Georgia, supra. Thus, our statute is not violative of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Brewer v. State, supra.

Defendant therefore focuses his constitutional attack in this case upon what he terms the uncontrolled discretion given to the prosecuting attorneys under our statute to determine who will or who will not be charged with the death penalty. He first contends that this uncontrolled discretion results in an arbitrary and capricious selection of those against whom a death penalty is charged and therefore is unconstitutional. We find no constitutional problems in this area. Prosecutors are traditionally given a wide discretionary power in our criminal justice system to select the persons who are to be prosecuted at any level and to plea bargain with them. This frequently results in less than maximum sentences for specific individuals. The United States Supreme Court has clearly stated that "Nothing in any of our cases suggests that the decision to afford an individual defendant mercy violates the Constitution." Gregg v. Georgia, supra, 428 U.S. at 199, 96 S.Ct. at 2937, 49 L.Ed.2d at 889. Similarly, we find nothing in the Constitution which prohibits prosecutorial discretion in charging the death penalty. Our statute has numerous provisions that protect each individual defendant from receiving an arbitrary or capricious sentence of death. The constitutional rights of our citizens are thus adequately protected.

Defendant further argues that the power to use the threat of the charge of the death penalty in the plea bargaining process is an unconstitutional burden upon his right to a jury trial under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments and upon his right against compelled self-incrimination under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. He relies upon the rationale of United States v. Jackson, (1968) 390 U.S. 570, 88 S.Ct. 1209, 20 L.Ed.2d 138, where the Court held that the death sentence provided by the Federal Kidnapping Act was unconstitutional because under the provisions of the Act only those insisting upon a jury trial faced the possibility of a death penalty whereas those tried to the court after waiving a jury trial and those pleading guilty faced only a sentence of life imprisonment.

We find that no such impermissible burden is present under our statutory scheme since the death sentence may be imposed after a guilty plea or a waiver of jury trial as well as after a plea of not guilty followed by a jury trial. Ind. Code § 35-50-2-9 (Burns 1979 Repl.) provides in part:

"(d) If the defendant was convicted of murder in a jury trial, the jury shall reconvene for the sentencing hearing; if the trial was to the court, or the judgment was entered on a guilty plea, the court alone shall conduct the sentencing hearing."

Furthermore, the United States Supreme Court has specifically held that there is no per se rule against encouraging guilty pleas and that a state may encourage a guilty plea by offering substantial benefits in return for the plea. Corbitt v. New Jersey, (1978) 439 U.S. 212, 99 S.Ct. 492, 58 L.Ed.2d 466. The Court has recognized the benefits of efficiency and speedy dispositions that

Page 764

plea bargaining offers, and has fully approved its use as long as it is accompanied by safeguards that insure full knowledge on the part of the defendant offering a guilty plea as to his rights, his consequent waiver of those rights, the crime to which he is pleading guilty and the maximum penalty or the extent to which he places himself at risk. Bordenkircher v. Hayes, (1978) 434 U.S. 357, 98 S.Ct. 663, 54 L.Ed.2d 604.

In Brady v. United States, (1970) 397 U.S. 742, 90 S.Ct. 1463, 25 L.Ed.2d 747, the Court ruled that a guilty plea is not "coerced" merely because a defendant escapes the possibility of a death sentence by pleading guilty. In so holding the court said:

"But we cannot hold that it is unconstitutional for the State to extend a benefit to a defendant who in turn extends a substantial benefit to the State and who demonstrates by his plea that he is ready and willing to admit his crime and to enter the correctional system in a frame of mind that affords hope for success in rehabilitation over a shorter period of time than might otherwise be necessary.

"A contrary holding would require the States and Federal Government to forbid guilty pleas altogether, to provide a single invariable penalty for each crime defined by the statutes, or to place the sentencing function in a separate authority having no knowledge of the manner in which the conviction in each case was obtained. In any event, it would be necessary to forbid prosecutors and judges to accept guilty pleas to selected counts, to lesser included offenses, or to reduced charges. The Fifth Amendment does not reach so far." 397 U.S. at 753, 90 S.Ct. at 1471, 25 L.Ed.2d at 759.

We find that no impermissible...

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59 practice notes
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    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • September 1, 1982
    ...38 Ill.Dec. 757, 404 N.E.2d 181 (1980); People v. Gleckler, 82 Ill.2d 145, 44 Ill.Dec. 483, 411 N.E.2d 849 (1980); Williams v. State, 430 N.E.2d 759 (Ind.1982); Judy v. State, 416 N.E.2d 95 (Ind.1981). Arkansas restricts its inventory to cases in which the death penalty was actually imposed......
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  • People v. Keenan
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
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    ...469 U.S. 1077, 105 S.Ct. 577, 83 L.Ed.2d 516; State v. Rupe (1984) 101 Wash.2d 664, 683 P.2d 571, 592-593; Williams v. State (Ind.1982) 430 N.E.2d 759, 763, app. dism. 459 U.S. 808, 103 S.Ct. 33, 74 L.Ed.2d 47; see Calhoun v. State (1983) 297 Md. 563, 468 A.2d 45, 63-64, cert. den. sub nom.......
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