Wright v. State, 031419 INCA, 18A-PC-1850

Docket Nº:18A-PC-1850
Party Name:Steven A. Wright, Appellant-Petitioner, v. State of Indiana, Appellee-Respondent
Attorney:Attorneys for Appellant Stephen T. Owens Public Defender of Indiana J. Michael Sauer Deputy Public Defender Indianapolis, Indiana Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General Jesse R. Drum Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana
Judge Panel:Mathias, J., and Crone, J., concur.
Case Date:March 14, 2019
Court:Court of Appeals of Indiana

Steven A. Wright, Appellant-Petitioner,


State of Indiana, Appellee-Respondent

No. 18A-PC-1850

Court of Appeals of Indiana

March 14, 2019


Appeal from the Elkhart Superior Court, The Honorable Teresa L. Cataldo, Judge, Trial Court Cause No. 20D03-1410-PC-40

Attorneys for Appellant Stephen T. Owens Public Defender of Indiana J. Michael Sauer Deputy Public Defender Indianapolis, Indiana

Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General Jesse R. Drum Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana



Case Summary

[¶1] In 2010, Steven A. Wright was convicted of molesting his girlfriend's seven- year-old daughter, and the trial court sentenced him to thirty-five years. He later filed a petition for post-conviction relief arguing that his trial and appellate attorneys rendered ineffective assistance, and the post-conviction court denied relief. We affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶2] In early 2009, Jennifer Linville and her three children, including her seven-year- old daughter K.M., were living with Jennifer's grandma. Jennifer was separated from her husband, who was attending truck-driving school in Texas. In late February 2009, Jennifer started dating twenty-two-year-old Wright, whom she knew from her childhood. Trial Tr. p. 424. Wright visited Jennifer at her grandma's house "[e]very night." Id. at 386. One weeknight in the middle of March, Jennifer and Wright went out drinking at a bar. Jennifer also used methamphetamine and marijuana that night. According to Jennifer, this was the first night that Wright spent the night with her. When Jennifer and Wright returned to her grandma's house around midnight, Wright stayed up for a little bit and Jennifer went to bed. When Jennifer entered her bedroom, she saw K.M. sleeping on the floor. Intoxicated, Jennifer fell asleep.

[¶3] When Jennifer woke up the next morning, K.M. was in bed with her and Wright was sleeping on the floor where K.M. had been. Jennifer woke up K.M. for school. As K.M. was getting ready for school, she told her mother that her underwear was inside out.

[¶4] About a month later, on April 11, Jennifer and Wright were watching television in her bedroom when K.M. walked in, approached Wright, and said, "Do you know how you did something wrong to me? Well, I'm going to do it to you." Id. at 409. K.M. then accused Wright of touching her "private parts," pointing to her vagina to illustrate. Id. Wright denied touching K.M. Stunned, Jennifer did not say or do anything.

[¶5] The next day, Jennifer asked K.M. about her allegation. Jennifer was "bawling" at the time. Id. at 416. K.M. kept telling her mother that "it was going to be okay" and wiped away her mother's tears. Id. "All [K.M.] would tell [Jennifer] was that [Wright] touched her private area." Id. A family member reported the molestation to the police several days later, and a detective interviewed Jennifer on April 17. During the interview, Jennifer told the detective what K.M. had told her: [A]t one point in time, [K.M.] said that [Wright] touched over clothes, and the next time she said that he put his hands in her pants, and then she woke up and her pants were backwards. So I went along with the story that he just touched her, because that's what she's sticking to now.

P-C Ex. 5 pp. 5-6. Although Jennifer did not tell the detective about her drug use, she did tell him that she did not know if K.M.'s allegation was "true" as K.M. was "going through this time with, I'm not allowed to talk to no guys or nothing. Her dad is her daddy, because we're split up." Id. at 6. Jennifer told the detective that she even asked her grandma "what if [K.M.'s] just doing this because she doesn't want me with [Wright]?" Id. Jennifer then told the detective about an incident where an older neighbor boy played "a sex game" with her younger son, and K.M. started asking Jennifer if her brother was ever going to be allowed to see that neighbor boy again. Id. at 6-7. The detective asked Jennifer if K.M. would make up the allegation, and Jennifer responded that K.M. was "very manipulative." Id. at 9. But when the detective told Jennifer that that "was not what you told me before," Jennifer retreated, saying "I've never, ever, ever had any problems with her lying about this, but just since this incident, [K.M.] has been kind of real funny about it." Id.

[¶6] In June, the State charged Wright with Class A felony child molesting (deviate sexual conduct) and Class C felony child molesting (fondling or touching). A jury trial was held in February 2010. K.M. and Jennifer were the only two witnesses to testify at trial. K.M., who had since turned eight years old, testified that after her mother fell asleep, Wright entered the bedroom and got in bed with her mother for a little bit. K.M. was "awake," but her eyes were "closed." Trial Tr. pp. 346-47. Wright then got out of bed, walked over to K.M., "crouched down," and started rubbing her belly with his hand. Id. at 343. Wright then started "going down and down and then under." Id. K.M. clarified that "[a]t first he was on top, then he started going under my clothes." Id. at 343-44. Wright also pulled K.M.'s underwear down to her ankles. Id. at 349. Wright then "rubbed and push[ed]" his finger "in circles" under K.M.'s clothes and "between [her] private." Id. at 344. K.M. described her "private" as where she "pee[s]." Id. K.M. said when she opened her eyes, Wright "swoop[ed] his hands behind his back." Id. at 347. K.M. gave him a "mad face" and then "took his spot on the bed." Id. at 348. Trial counsel cross-examined K.M., focusing on whether she was awake or asleep when she was touched. Trial counsel did not ask K.M. what she told her mother about the incident.

[¶7] Jennifer testified about the April 11 incident...

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