Woods v. State

Decision Date28 November 1989
Docket NumberNo. 885,885
Citation547 N.E.2d 772
PartiesDavid Leon WOODS, Appellant, v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee. S 343.
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

Susan K. Carpenter, State Public Defender, David P. Freund, Deputy Public Defender, Indianapolis, for appellant.

Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen., Cheryl L. Greiner, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee.

DeBRULER, Justice.

Appellant was charged in Count I pursuant to I.C. 35-42-1-1(1) with the knowing and intentional killing of Juan Placencia and in Count II pursuant to I.C. 35-42-5-1 with the robbery and serious bodily injury of the same victim, a Class A felony. In a separate request for a sentence of death, the prosecution alleged pursuant to I.C. 35-50-2-9(b)(1) the aggravating circumstance that appellant committed an intentional killing while committing robbery.

A trial by jury resulted in verdicts of guilty as charged in Counts I and II. Judgments were then entered on the verdicts. Two days later, the jury reconvened for the penalty phase of the trial. Following the presentation of evidence, the jury retired and then returned a verdict recommending the death penalty.

The cause then came on for sentencing. The trial court expressly found that the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant intentionally killed the victim while committing robbery. The court further concluded that the mitigating circumstances were outweighed by the single aggravating circumstance and ordered death on Count I and fifty years on Count II.

The evidence adduced at the trial viewed most favorably to the verdict shows that the following events transpired. At approximately 4:00 a.m. on April 7, 1984, appellant David Woods, along with Greg Sloan and Pat Sweet, proceeded to the apartment of the victim, Juan Placencia, to steal a television. This occurred in Garrett, Indiana, a small town. Placencia was a seventy-seven-year-old man who had medical problems with a knee. Woods, nineteen years old at the time, was armed with a knife and told Sloan and Sweet that he was going to scare Placencia with it.

Sweet stayed in the yard. Appellant Woods and Sloan approached the door of the apartment and rang the bell. Placencia answered the door, whereupon appellant Woods immediately jumped in and stabbed him several times with the knife. Placencia fell back into a chair, directed them to his money, and began to make noise, asking for help. Woods took the money from Placencia's wallet and then stabbed him again repeatedly. Placencia died from three wounds which pierced his heart.

Woods and Sloan carried out the television and hid it in a trash bin. Later they picked it up and sold it. They also washed their clothes and threw the knife and other items in a creek.

We are presented with twenty-nine issues in this appeal.


The first appellate claim is that the trial court committed error when overruling appellant's motion to suppress and trial objections to the admission of his confession, the statements of certain witnesses, and certain items of physical evidence, all of which are asserted to be the direct product of his illegal arrest and detention. The Fourth Amendment requires that an arrest or detention for more than a short period be justified by probable cause. Probable cause to arrest exists where the facts and circumstances within the knowledge of the officers or of which they have reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient to warrant a belief by a person of reasonable caution that an offense has been committed and that the person to be arrested has committed it. Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 69 S.Ct. 1302, 93 L.Ed. 1879 (1949). Limited investigatory seizures or stops on the street involving a brief question or two and a possible frisk for weapons can be justified by mere reasonable suspicion. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968). There is no seizure and thus no requirement of justification when a suspect freely and voluntarily accompanies police officers or shows up at the police station in response to an invitation and is questioned without restraint. Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U.S. 492, 97 S.Ct. 711, 50 L.Ed.2d 714 (1977); Dillon v. State (1983), Ind., 454 N.E.2d 845; Barber v. State (1981), Ind.App., 418 N.E.2d 563.

At approximately 9:45 a.m. on the same morning, responding to the report of a man needing help, Officer Kleeman of the Garrett police went to Palencia's apartment building and discovered appellant Woods there on a porch crying and incoherent, mumbling something on the order of "Why did it have to be him." Kleeman had no idea what the problem was. Another person appeared and led Kleeman to the Placencia apartment. Kleeman told appellant to stay on the porch. After Kleeman entered the apartment and saw the body, he reported in and returned to the porch to question Woods about why he had been at the apartment. Woods responded that he had gone to the apartment to use the phone, had discovered the body, and had run from the apartment yelling for help.

Within a few minutes, Kleeman asked appellant to go to a police car away from the onlookers, including relatives of Placencia who had gathered, for further questioning. Appellant was given his Miranda rights; he said that he understood them and wanted to waive them. He said that he would talk to police and that he would be more than glad to help them in any way. Appellant was questioned for about a half hour in the car, essentially describing his discovery of the body and adding that he had been with Sloan and Sweet the night before. He was not arrested or physically restrained in any manner.

While appellant was being questioned in the police car, his mother appeared at the scene and told the police that she felt her son had been involved in the killing. She said he had been in and out of their house during the previous night asking for dark clothes and gloves and that he talked nervously about needing money and killing someone. He had talked about killing a woman who lived above Placencia in the same apartment house. She made this statement at about 10:20 a.m. and was transported to the police station where, at 10:40 a.m., she added to her previous statement that appellant had gone to the basement and awakened his brother and that at 7:00 a.m., he had come into the house again and seemed to be troubled about something. She signed a consent to search her house.

In the meantime, at the crime scene at 10:50 a.m., appellant was left alone in the police car after having been cooperative. Within five minutes, appellant, without being arrested or restrained, but without being told that he was free to go, was driven by another officer to the Garrett police station two blocks away. An officer testified that if appellant had sought to leave, he probably would not have grabbed hold of him, but would have asked him to stay until he had conferred with other officers.

Appellant arrived at the police station at about 10:52 a.m. and was escorted by the driver, who was in plain clothes, into the office of the chief. The driver was under instructions to stay with appellant and not engage him in any conversation or permit any one else to engage him in conversation. Appellant was permitted to go into an adjoining toilet and read a newspaper until Officer Kleeman arrived at about 11:50 a.m. He was again given his Miranda rights and signed a waiver of rights and a consent to search his residence. He was asked to and did empty his pockets. He had two black pills and a wallet containing $160.00. His wallet and money were returned to him, but the pills were not. Appellant permitted the officer to examine his arms and torso. During this interrogation, appellant asked no questions, was not hesitant, and posed no opposition to anything that was taking place. It was not announced that he was under arrest, and he was not restrained by handcuffs or other devices. He was not told that he was free to go at any time nor was he told that he was not free to go. Appellant basically repeated his former claim of having discovered the body and was left in the office with yet another officer at a few minutes after noon.

At 12:55 p.m., a search of the residence of appellant and his mother produced a knife sheath and a stained towel, among other items. At 1:00 p.m., another person in appellant's residence confirmed that appellant had spoken and acted the night before in the manner attributed to him by his mother in her statement. At 1:20 p.m., one Krotzer gave a statement to police that appellant and Greg Sloan had appeared at his house at 5:00 a.m. and asked to borrow his car to haul a television.

At 4:45 p.m., appellant was still being held in the chief's office and was again interrogated after having again been read his Miranda rights and making an explicit waiver. As new pieces of evidence were worked into the interrogation, appellant's story began to change. A lie detector test was scheduled at the state police post for 8:00 p.m. Appellant was transported in handcuffs to the post where, while answering general questions in preparation for being attached to the machine, he broke down, confessing that he had gone with Sloan to the Placencia apartment to steal a television, had knocked on the door, and had stabbed Placencia as he answered the door and again inside the apartment. Appellant was returned to the county jail where he was formally arrested.

The evidence brought out during the hearing on the motion to suppress, which distinguishes this case from those in which a seizure of the person was held invalid because of the absence of probable cause, was appellant's status as the first person to discover a homicide, appellant's presence at the crime scene shortly after the crime, and the incriminating statements of appellant's mother to the officers at the crime scene and at the police station. In Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200, 99 S.Ct. 2248, 60 L.Ed.2d 824 (1979), the police received a tip...

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