Wright v. State

Decision Date10 June 1977
Docket NumberNo. 776S199,776S199
Citation363 N.E.2d 1221,266 Ind. 327
PartiesFrank WRIGHT, Jr., Appellant, v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee.
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

Roger D. Reason, Dickmann, Dickmann & Reason, Greenfield, for appellant.

Theodore L. Sendak, Atty. Gen., Susan J. Davis, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee.

PIVARNIK, Justice.

The Appellant, Frank Wright, Jr., was convicted on December 11, 1975, of the second degree murder of Kandy Kay Chadwick, the twenty-one month old child of the Appellant's girlfriend, Donna Chadwick. (Donna Chadwick was also convicted of second degree murder. Her conviction was affirmed by this court in Chadwick v. State, (1977) Ind., 362 N.E.2d 483.) The jury's verdict imposed a sentence of life imprisonment. The Appellant filed his motion to correct errors on March 9, 1976. This motion was denied on April 7, 1976.


In order to set out the facts of this case conveniently, we consider first the contention of the Appellant that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support the jury's verdict. The Appellant first contends in this argument that a statement given by him to police, upon which his conviction was largely based, was erroneously admitted into evidence because there was insufficient evidence independent of the statement to establish corpus delicti.

In order to admit a confession into evidence, independent evidence of the corpus delicti must be adduced. Burton v. State, (1973) 260 Ind. 94, 292 N.E.2d 790. 'A dead body alone is not proof of the corpus delicti in a homicide case; but an identified dead body with marks of violence thereon or surrounding circumstances that would indicate the deceased did not die from natural causes establishes prima facie that a homicide has been committed and the corpus delicti.' (citations omitted) Brown v. State, (1958) 239 Ind. 184 at 190, 154 N.E.2d 720 at 722.

The evidence at trial revealed that on Sunday, July 20, 1974, at approximately 11:59 a.m., police were summoned to the Indianapolis home of Donna Chadwick. There they found the body of Chadwick's infant daughter, Kandy Kay Chadwick. Medical examination revealed multiple bruises, cuts and abrasions: some eleven cuts and bruises of the head; some ten to fifteen bruises and abrasions of the chest and abdomen; bruises on the left side of the back; small bruises of both arms and older bruises of the legs.

Expert testimony indicated that the bruises of the abdomen, chest, and head were 'recent', within twenty-four to thirty-six hours of the time of death. Internal examination of the decedent revealed bleeding about the right adrenal gland, hemorrhage of the liver, and bruising of the fatty tissue in the middle of the abdomen. Examination of the head showed bruising generally over the entire skull. The immediate cause of death was determined to be craniocerebral injury, injury to the brain caused by blows of sufficient impact to also fracture the child's skull.

Expert testimony established that these injuries could not have been caused by a fall. The instrument of death was something blunt and fairly soft. The fatal injuries were a 'multiple blow structure' requiring 'considerable' force and were sustained 'within two to three days at the most' of the time of death. We think this testimony regarding the extent and nature of the injuries in this case adequately established the corpus delicti, that homicide had been committed.

The Appellant presents three other challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence:

1) Lack of 'killing'--this contention asserts that the evidence did not establish that a death occurred by criminal means and was a 'result of the specific act of the accused.'

2) Lack of intent--this contention asserts that the evidence failed to show that the Appellant killed the decedent 'purposely', required for a conviction of second degree murder.

3) Lack of malice--this contention asserts that the evidence did not show that the Appellant killed the decedent 'maliciously', also required for a conviction of second degree murder.

We have already noted that prima facie evidence of a homicide was presented. Direct evidence of the acts of the Appellant was contained in a statement given by him to police. In that statement the Appellant admitted hitting the decedent in the stomach with his open hand, and admitted hitting her head and gouging her stomach with a stick eight inches long, one-quarter inch wide, and one-half inch thick. The baby grew sicker, revealing symptoms medical testimony described as symptomatic of the brain injury from which she died. The Appellant did not take the infant to a doctor. Medical testimony further established that the injuries from which the child died could possibly have been successfully treated.

The jury also had before it evidence that the Appellant had been at the scene of the crime and had fled. Such evidence may be considered as circumstantial evidence of guilt. Frith v. State, (1975) Ind., 325 N.E.2d 186. Presence at the scene in connection with other circumstances tending to show participation in the crime may be sufficient to sustain a conviction. McGill v. State, (1969) 252 Ind. 293, 247 N.E.2d 514.

In looking at the other two elements raised by the Appellant, intent and malice, Shackelford v. State, (1976) Ind., 349 N.E.2d 150, offers a pertinent discussion:

(A) barehanded beating or a stomping may permit the jury to draw an inference of purpose and malice. This is especially true if the victim is weaker than his assailant or if the assailant continues to beat or kick the victim after he had fallen and is clearly no threat to the attacker. McKinstry v. State, (1975) Ind., 338 N.E.2d 636; Covington v. State, (1975) Ind., 322 N.E.2d 705; Corbin v. State, (1968) 250 Ind. 147, 234 N.E.2d 261; Stice v. State, (1949) 228 Ind. 144, 89 N.E.2d 915; Annot., 22 A.L.R.2d 854 (1952). The circumstances in which the homicide took place and the method of killing are common types of evidence tending to show state of mind. McKinstry v. State, supra.

'An act is done purposely, if it is willed, is the product of a conscious design, intent or plan that it be done, and is done with an awareness of probable consequences.' An act is done with malice when it is done with 'any evil design in general.' In homicide, a purposeful killing is done with malice if it is done neither in self-defense nor in the heat of passion induced by sufficient provocation. McKinstry, supra, at 640, and cases therein.

349 N.E.2d at 154.

The Appellant's argument asserts that various portions of his statement demonstrated 'interest and concern for the decedent,' that it showed immaturity or lack of education, but no intent to kill. This Court cannot, however, weigh the evidence. We look at only the evidence most favorable to the State and the reasonable inferences to be drawn from that evidence. A verdict will not be disturbed if there is substantial evidence of probative value from which the trier of fact could reasonably infer that the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Young v. State, (1975) Ind., 332 N.E.2d 103; Jackson v. State, (1971) 257 Ind. 477, 275 N.E.2d 538. We find the evidence recited above to be sufficient to sustain the verdict in this case.


It is also contended that the trial court erred in denying a defense motion for discharge based upon Criminal Rule 4(B). That rule reads in pertinent part:

(B)(1) Defendant in jail--Motion for early trial. If any defendant held in jail on an indictment or an affidavit shall move for an early trial, he shall be discharged if not brought to trial within seventy (70) calendar days from the date of such motion, except where a continuance within said period is had on his motion, or the delay is otherwise caused by his act, or where there was not sufficient time to try him during such seventy (70) calendar days because of the congestion of the court calendar. Provided, however, that in the last-mentioned circumstance, the prosecuting attorney shall file a timely motion for continuance as set forth in subdivision (A) of this rule.

The Appellant's motion was properly denied under these provisions.

The Appellant's motion for speedy trial was filed on June 10, 1975. On June 18, 1975, a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, a motion for mental examination, and a motion for change of venue were filed. The change of venue was perfected on June 25 and the requested mental examinations were conducted. On September 9, 1975, the Appellant requested that his competency hearing be continued. On September 18, 1975, the plea of not guilty by reason of insanity was withdrawn.

The Appellant's 'motion for dismissal and discharge' was filed on September 26, 1975. It is clear, however, that delay of his trial from June 18 to September 18 is directly attributable to his insanity plea and to his motion for change of venue. The running of the seventy day limit under Criminal Rule 4(B) was tolled for this period of delay and had not run when the Appellant's motion for discharge was made.

It is asserted by the Appellant that his plea of insanity and the motions which accompanied its filing could not cause delay chargeable to him because they were not filed by his attorney of record. The record confirms that the plea and motions were filed by that attorney's partner. This Court has written that an attorney cannot delegate his authority. Clegg v. Baumberger, (1866) 110 Ind. 536, 9 N.E. 700. However, after these allegedly unauthorized acts the Appellant submitted to psychological examinations, moved for continuance of his competency hearing, and later withdrew his insanity plea. At no time was any objection to the entry of the plea made. Under traditional agency analysis, the Appellant's silence and acceptance of the benefits attaching to the purportedly unauthorized acts ratified them. 1 I.L.E. Agency § 121 et seq. (1957). The Appellant's failure to voice objection also...

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