Wright v. State

Decision Date29 December 1997
Docket NumberNo. 18S00-9606-CR-458,18S00-9606-CR-458
Citation690 N.E.2d 1098
CourtIndiana Supreme Court
PartiesChad L. WRIGHT, Appellant (Defendant), v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff).

Ronald K. Smith, Muncie, for Appellant (Defendant).

Pamela Carter, Attorney General, Michael K. Ausbrook, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, for Appellee (Plaintiff).

SELBY, Judge.

A jury convicted Chad L. Wright ("defendant") of felony murder, 1 conspiracy to commit robbery, 2 and criminal confinement. 3 The court sentenced defendant to sixty (60) years on the murder count, forty-five (45) years on the conspiracy count, and twenty (20) years on the criminal confinement count, with all sentences to run concurrently for a total of sixty (60) years.

On appeal, defendant argues that: (1) the court erroneously allowed the State to amend its charging informations to clarify that it was charging defendant as an accessory on the murder and confinement counts; (2) the court improperly allowed a peremptory strike of a prospective juror who was African-American; (3) the court erred when it admitted statements of an alleged co-conspirator, over defendant's hearsay objections, because the State did not lay a proper foundation showing evidence of a conspiracy; (4) there was insufficient evidence to sustain defendant's convictions; (5) the court erred when it refused to give jury instructions on assisting a criminal and attempted robbery as lesser included offenses of murder; (6) the court improperly gave three jury instructions over defendant's objections; (7) the prosecutor's comments during closing argument constitute misconduct warranting reversal of defendant's convictions; and (8) the court erred when it denied defendant's motion to correct error, which was based on the State's failure to disclose an alleged plea agreement entered into with Scott Turner, a key witness for the State and an alleged co-conspirator.

Defendant's arguments are without merit, and, accordingly, we affirm his convictions.


The facts viewed in the light most favorable to the State and the verdicts below are that, in the early morning hours of September 25, 1994, Larry Newton, Duane Turner, and defendant attempted to rob Christopher Coyle ("Coyle"), a Ball State student, and during the course of the robbery shot and killed him. Newton obtained the gun used in the shooting from Scott Turner ("Turner"; no relation to Duane Turner), a State witness in this case who had purchased the gun late in the afternoon on September 24, but who was not present during the robbery attempt and shooting. Although defendant did not actually shoot Coyle, he was the driver for the group during the commission of the crimes.

The evening began for defendant and his friends at about ten o'clock, when defendant drove to their friend's house on South Elm Street, and defendant and his friends decided to go out. Larry Newton ("Newton") and Duane Turner ("Duane"), got into defendant's car. Turner and the rest of his friends got into another car and followed defendant to a place referred to as "Graffiti Bridge," north of Route 332 near I-69. There they "hung out," drank, and smoked marijuana for about forty-five minutes. (R. at 543.) Then they all went to a graveyard nearby and continued to drink.

While they were at the graveyard, Newton asked Turner for his gun, and Turner gave it to him. At some point after Newton had the gun, Turner was standing behind a friend's car. Duane was standing on Turner's right, Newton was next to him, and defendant was standing next to Newton on the other side. Three of his friends were sitting on the back trunk of the car facing Turner, Newton, Duane, and defendant.

At that point, according to Turner, Newton said to the group that "he wanted to make some money and felt like robbing somebody." (R. at 547.) He asked Turner and one of the other members of the group if they wanted to go with him and they declined. Newton then asked Duane if he wanted to go with him and he agreed to go. He asked defendant if he would drive them to Ball State, and defendant agreed to take Newton and Duane to Ball State. Newton then said, with the group still assembled around him, that he was "hyped" and felt like "killing someone." (R. at 549.) For a few minutes they remained there, smoking marijuana, and then Newton said "we're going to go do this, let's go do this." He then walked towards defendant's car, and Duane and defendant followed him. The three of them then drove off with defendant at the wheel at about one thirty in the morning.

Immediately after leaving the graveyard, Newton and Duane talked about doing some "devious things" and showed defendant the gun. They then drove to the Ball State campus area, and at about two o'clock in the morning of September 25, they saw Coyle walking down the street alone near a dormitory. Coyle was returning from escorting another student back to her dormitory after a party.

When they saw Coyle, they circled around and Newton and Duane jumped out of the car and ran towards Coyle. Defendant drove down the street about a block and a half, made a U-turn, parked the car, and waited for them to return.

Duane and Newton, who had his hand on the gun he was displaying in his belt, returned with Coyle and ordered Coyle into the car. Coyle climbed into the back seat behind defendant, who was still seated behind the wheel, Duane got in the passenger's side of the front seat, and Newton got into the back seat on the passenger's side next to Coyle. Newton then asked Coyle if he had any money, and Coyle said that he did not have any money but that he could get some at his residence. Newton, however, did not want to go to Coyle's residence, as he was afraid that there would be people there.

Defendant then drove into a nearby alley, and Newton and Duane got out of the car and also ordered Coyle to get out of the car. Newton and Duane walked Coyle to the back of defendant's car. Newton pulled out the gun and shot Coyle once, fatally, in the back of the head. Newton then handed the gun to Duane, who fired a shot into Coyle's body, which by then was slumped on the ground. The second shot grazed Coyle's shoulder.

Defendant drove Newton and Duane back to their friend's house where Newton and defendant told Turner about the shooting. Newton asked Turner to get rid of the gun. Defendant then drove with his girlfriend to his girlfriend's sister's house where he dozed off. Turner broke the gun into pieces and put parts of it in a bag which he threw into the Prairie Creek Reservoir. He threw the grips of the gun out the window of a car while driving on 12th Street.

The police arrested Newton, Duane, and Turner within about three days of the crime, and upon hearing about their arrest in the news, defendant went to the police and gave taped and a videotaped interviews regarding his role. Newton, Duane, and defendant were each separately tried. 4

The jury considered defendant's statements and his testimony together with the testimony of Turner and the other witnesses and evidence. On December 7, 1995, defendant's jury trial ended in guilty verdicts on all three counts.

On January 4, 1996, after defendant's trial, the State amended its information filed against Scott Turner, and, on January 11, 1996, Turner, who was originally charged with conspiracy to commit robbery, pleaded guilty to assisting a criminal.

I. Amendment of Informations

Defendant argues that the court erred when it permitted the State to amend its informations solely for the purpose of charging accessory liability rather than liability as a principal, that is, to charge defendant with aiding Newton and Duane to kill Coyle while attempting to commit robbery and with aiding to confine Coyle without his consent and while armed with a deadly weapon, rather than to charge him with doing these acts himself. This argument is meritless.

Here, although the trial date was initially set for June 5, 1995 on the informations charging defendant as a principal, defendant twice moved for a continuance due to the timing of the trials of Duane and Newton and other scheduling concerns, and the trial court twice granted the defense's motions to continue the trial date, ultimately setting the case for trial on December 4, 1995. The court advised the State at the time of the second continuance that any motions to amend the pleadings should be made by October 16, 1995, and the defense did not object to this date. Nevertheless, when the State moved on October 12 to amend the informations to charge accessory liability, defendant requested a hearing on the State's motion. The court set the matter for hearing on October 26. On that date the defense requested that the matter be continued to allow him an opportunity to study the State's proposed amendment which he had just received, and the court granted his request. At the continuation of the hearing on October 30, defendant objected to the amendment on the general ground that it changed the availability of defenses available to him but did not explain specifically how he was prejudiced. The court overruled his objections, and defendant failed to move for a continuance to further evaluate and prepare his case in light of the amendments, although the court reminded him of his right to do so.

Had defendant seriously believed that the amendment of the charges prejudiced him in any way, he should have requested a continuance to further evaluate and prepare his case in light of the amendments. Having failed to request a continuance after the court granted the motion to amend, defendant has waived this issue on appeal. Haymaker v. State, 667 N.E.2d 1113, 1114 (Ind.1996).

Even if, however, defendant had properly preserved the issue for appeal, his argument would still fail, for defendant has not explained how the State's amendment prejudiced his substantial rights. 5 It is not surprising that he could not do so because,...

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