ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE
James N. Thiros Jeffrey A. Modisett
Merrillville, Indiana Attorney General of Indiana
Alan M. Freedman Arthur Thaddeus Perry
Carol R. Heise Deputy Attorney General
Chicago, Illinois Indianapolis, Indiana
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
GREGORY ROUSTER, ) ) Appellant (Petitioner Below ), ) ) v. ) Cause No. 45S00-9304-PD-408 ) STATE OF INDIANA, ) ) Appellee (Respondent Below ). )The Honorable Richard J. Conroy, Judge Cause No. 2CR-133-886-531
APPEAL FROM THE LAKE SUPERIOR COURT
SHEPARD, Chief Justice.
A jury found Gregory Rouster guilty of felony murder for killing his former foster parents, John and Henrietta Rease. In
accordance with the jury's recommendation, the court sentenced
Rouster to death. On direct appeal, we affirmed. Rouster v.
State, 600 N.E.2d 1342 (Ind. 1992). Rouster filed a petition for
post-conviction relief challenging his conviction and sentence.
The post-conviction court denied the petition. In this appeal,
Rouster asserts numerous claims which we consolidate and review as
I. Ineffective assistance of counsel;
II. Systemic defects in the Lake County public defender system;
III. False evidence;
IV. Pre-sentence psychological profile; and
V. Post-conviction due process.
The facts of this case may be found in our direct appeal
opinion . See id. at 1344-46.
Post-conviction procedures do not afford the petitioner with a super-appeal. Instead, they create a narrow remedy for subsequent collateral challenges to convictions, challenges which must be based on grounds enumerated in the post-conviction rules. Ind.Post-Conviction Rule 1(1); Weatherford v. State, 619 N.E.2d 915 (Ind. 1993). Petitioners bear the burden of establishing their
grounds by a preponderance of the evidence. P-C.R. 1(5);
Weatherford, 619 N.E.2d at 917. If an issue was known and
available but not raised on appeal, it is waived. If it was raised
on appeal but decided adversely, it is res judicata. Lowery v.
State, 640 N.E.2d 1031 (Ind. 1994), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 992
When one is appealing the negative judgment of a post-
conviction court, the standard of review is even more rigorous.
Petitioners must show that the evidence, when taken as a whole,
"leads unerringly and unmistakably to a conclusion opposite to that
reached by the trial court." Weatherford, 619 N.E.2d at 917.
(Ind. 1998). Accordingly, we address these claims on the basis
urged by Rouster.
We analyze claims of ineffective assistance of trial and
appellate counsel under the two-part test announced in Strickland
v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). To prevail on an ineffective
assistance of counsel claim, one must show both deficient
performance and resulting prejudice. A deficient performance is a
performance that falls below an objective standard of
reasonableness. See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687; Douglas v. State,
663 N.E.2d 1153 (Ind. 1996). Prejudice exists when a
defendant/petitioner shows "there is a reasonable probability that,
but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the
proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is
a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome."
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694; see also Cook v. State, 675 N.E.2d 687
Even if the prisoner succeeds in showing a reasonable probability the results would have been different, he must also show his conviction was fundamentally unfair or unreliable. Lockhart v. Fretwell, 506 U.S. 364 (1993); Games v. State, 690 N.E.2d 211 (Ind. 1997), modifying Games v. State, 684 N.E.2d 466 (Ind. 1997). A fair trial has been denied a defendant when his "conviction or sentence has resulted from a breakdown of the adversarial process that rendered the result unreliable." Canaan
v. State, 683 N.E.2d 227, 229 (Ind. 1997), cert. denied, 118 S.Ct.
2064 (1998). A claimant must offer strong and convincing evidence
to overcome the presumption that counsel prepared and executed an
effective defense. Burris v. State, 558 N.E.2d 1067 (Ind. 1990),
cert. denied, 516 U.S. 922 (1995).
Rouster claims his trial counsel were ineffective for the following reasons: at pre-trial proceedings and during the guilt phase of trial, counsel failed to file a motion for severance, failed to engage in important discovery, See footnote 1 and failed to present expert testimony on the issue of whether Rouster was acting in self-defense; during the sentencing phase, counsel failed to investigate and present additional mitigating evidence and failed to make a new request for separate sentencing trials. Rouster also asserts that errors in penalty phase instructions constitute both ineffective assistance of counsel and fundamental error. The only claim Rouster makes regarding ineffective assistance of appellate counsel is that appellate counsel were ineffective for failing to raise the issue of ineffectiveness of trial counsel. We review each of Rouster's claims and any cumulative effects of the alleged
errors in the following subsections.
A. Counsel's Pre-trial and Guilt Phase Performance. Rouster
argues his counsel were ineffective during the pre-trial and guilt
phase periods of his trial for failing to file a motion to separate
trials and for failing to offer evidence on self-defense.
separate trials statute. Id. at 1346. Rouster now re-casts the
issue as a matter of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Defendants have no absolute right to a separate trial or severance, but they may ask the trial judge to exercise her discretion to grant such a motion. Lampkins v. State, 682 N.E.2d 1268 (Ind. 1997), modified on reh'g by 685 N.E.2d 698 (Ind. 1997). An abuse of discretion occurs when a court denies a defendant's properly filed motion for separate trials and the parties' defenses are mutually antagonistic to such a degree that acceptance of one party's defense precludes the acquittal of the other. Id. at 1272 (citing Underwood v. State, 535 N.E.2d 507 (Ind. 1989), cert. denied 493 U.S. 900 (1989)). A defendant is not, however, entitled to a separate trial merely because a co-defendant implicates that defendant. See footnote 3 Id. We initially consider the events that actually occurred at trial to determine whether a motion for separate trials indeed should have been granted, had it been filed. Id. (citing
Hopper v. State, 539 N.E.2d 944 (Ind. 1989)).
At trial, Rouster's co-defendant Williams argued that the
State had not proven its case against him beyond a reasonable
doubt. To create doubt in jurors' minds, Williams implicated
Rouster as the lone killer. He argued Rouster had a motive, that
he was "settl[ing] a score." (T.R. at 2529.) He also argued that
the facts showed that only Rouster could have fired the shots which
killed the Reases. (T.R. at 2532-34.) Rouster counter-argued that
blood found on Rouster's back proved that he was facing away from
the victims at the time shots were fired and thus Williams must
have actually fired the shots. (T.R. at 2565-66.) Rouster also
argued that he was too intoxicated to form the intent to murder.
(T.R. at 2569-73.) At the close of Rouster's argument, the trial
judge gave defendants Williams and Teresa Newsome an additional
fifteen minutes each "for response to the presentation by the
(T.R. at 2593.)
A substantial portion of both Williams' and Rouster's defense theories centered around the assertion by each that the other fired the fatal shots. It would have been well within the trial judge's discretion to grant a motion for separate trials under Ind. Code § 35-34-1-11, had such a motion been filed. It would not, however,
have been an abuse of discretion to deny the motion. Our standard,
enunciated in Underwood, 535 N.E.2d 514, provides trial judges with
substantial leeway in deciding whether to grant a motion for
To show an abuse of discretion, one must
demonstrate that acceptance of one party's defense precludes the
acquittal of the other. Id. Here, Williams could have been
acquitted if the jury accepted his argument that the State had not
proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he had been sufficiently
involved in the robbery and killing of the Reases to be culpable
under Ind. Code § 35-42-1-1(2), while Rouster could have been
acquitted on the basis of his intoxication defense. We would not
have found error had the trial court denied a properly drafted
motion filed by Rouster's counsel.
Moreover, there is no reasonable probability that the results at the guilt phase of trial would have been different if a separation had occurred. First, each co-defendant's arguments regarding who pulled the trigger were actually of little relevance since both were convicted of felony murder under Ind. Code § 35-42- 1-1. All participants in a robbery or attempted robbery that results in killing by one robber are deemed equally guilty of
murder, regardless of which participant actually killed the victim.
Rogers v. State, 262 Ind. 315, 315 N.E.2d 707 (1974).
Additionally, the same evidence would have been admitted against
Rouster even if he had been granted a separate trial. Such
evidence includes testimony that Rouster said, "I killed the [m-
fs]" to his co-defendant Teresa Newsome shortly after shots were
heard inside the Rease home, (T.R. at 890-91); Derrick Bryant's
testimony that he heard Rouster tell Williams, "[B]ring them both
back here" before he heard Henrietta Rease say, "Greg, why are you
doing this?" followed by two shots, (T.R. at 2040-41); plus the
physical evidence of the blood consistent with that of John Rease
found on Rouster's shoes, socks, and vest. Considering the amount
of corroborating evidence indicating Rouster's role in the crime,
Rouster was not prejudiced by his counsel's failure to move for
Rouster argues that trial counsel were ineffective for failing to present expert evidence to show the killings were committed in an act of self-defense. Self-defense is not available, however, as an affirmative defense when one is engaged in the commission of a robbery. Ind. Code Ann. § 35-41-3-2(d)(1) (West 1986). Rouster's proposed evidence (expert testimony meant to indicate the Reases' wounds were consistent with shots fired in self-defense) does not affect the evidence necessarily believed by the jury beyond a
reasonable doubt that Rouster and Williams were both engaged in
robbery at the time the killings occurred. Thus, even if we assume
Rouster was indeed acting to protect himself (an assumption that is
belied by virtually all of the evidence), he is barred from
asserting self-defense since the jury found he was engaged in
robbery at the time of the killings. Trial counsel were not
ineffective for failing to offer self-defense evidence.
The mitigating evidence Rouster asserts should have been
presented stems from his misfortune in having been born to a mother
who abused heroin. He believes that had the jury heard evidence
about the physiological and emotional effects Rouster incurred due
to his mother's addiction and her early abandonment of him, he
would not have been sentenced to death.
On direct appeal, Rouster's counsel made arguments similar to
those furthered by Rouster's post-conviction counsel. In response
to these arguments, we held:
Rouster concedes in his brief that the State presented evidence sufficient to prove the aggravators. He
contends, however, that mitigating circumstances exist
which are not outweighed by the aggravating circumstances
and thus the death penalty should not be imposed. He
points to facts in the record detailing the unfortunate
childhood which he endured: born to a fourteen year old
prostitute, abandoned at birth, raised as a ward of the
state, shuttled from foster homes to institutions, more
than a dozen different living arrangements in eighteen
The jury heard this evidence before making its recommendation that Rouster receive the death penalty for robbing and killing his elderly foster parents. There are indications in the record that the trial judge also considered Rouster's history in reaching his decision. The judge concluded, however, that "[Rouster's] lack of family support and traditional human relationships, though a factor in his antisocial behavior, cannot excuse that conduct . . ." Record at 147. The court then found that the aggravating circumstances predominated. The evidence supports this conclusion about the relative weight of all the circumstances and thus the decision regarding the penalty to be imposed on Rouster.
Rouster, 600 N.E.2d at 1350.
Rouster attempts to differentiate his present claim from the one he made on direct appeal by arguing his trial counsel should have hired expert witnesses to testify on the issue of how his
troubled circumstances affected his mental capacity.
sentencing, trial counsel did note several times, however, that
Rouster was emotionally disturbed. Counsel also referred the jury
to opinions given earlier at trial by members of the Department of
Public Welfare which stated Rouster was emotionally disturbed. The
additional testimony offered by the petitioner during post-
conviction would have given the jury neither additional nor
crucially different information. Based on this information and the
findings of the post-conviction court, we conclude counsel's
performance was not deficient for failing to offer additional
mitigating evidence about Rouster's mental state.
Rouster argues that, even if his counsel's failure to file a
motion for separate trials in regard to the guilt phase of his
trial was within the bounds of effective representation, his
failure to file a motion for separate trials before the sentencing
phase was deficient, prejudicial conduct.
Whether a defendant may claim separately that his counsel was
deficient for failing to file a motion for separate trials in
regard to the guilt and penalty phases of his trial is a novel
question in our jurisprudence.
Indiana Code § 35-34-1-11
enumerates the grounds upon which a motion to separate may or
should be granted. The portion of the statute relevant to
Rouster's case reads:
[U]pon motion of the defendant or the prosecutor, the court shall order a separate trial of defendants whenever the court determines that a separate trial is necessary to protect a defendant's right to a speedy trial or is appropriate to promote a fair determination of the guilt or innocence of a defendant.
Ind. Code Ann. § 35-34-1-11(b) (West 1986). The rules describing
when a motion for separate trials may be made read:
(a) A defendant's motion for severance of crimes or motion for a separate trial must be made before commencement of trial, except that the motion may be made
before or at the close of all the evidence during trial
if based upon a ground not previously known. The right
to severance of offenses or separate trial is waived by
failure to make the motion at the appropriate time.
(b) If a defendant's pretrial motion for severance of
offenses or motion for separate trial is overruled, the
motion may be renewed on the same grounds before or at
the close of all the evidence during trial. The right to
severance of offenses or separate trial is waived by
failure to renew the motion.
Ind. Code Ann. § 35-34-1-12 (West 1986).
The key to whether the trial court should consider a motion to
separate trials filed at the close of evidence is thus whether a
previously unknown ground, or a known but newly relevant ground,
causes a separate trial to become necessary for a fair
determination of the defendant's guilt or innocence. Here, no
evidence different from that which we have already considered in
our previous section on whether trial counsel should have filed a
motion to separate could have been offered by Rouster. See
discussion supra Part I.A.1. Accordingly, our conclusions
regarding Rouster's arguments are the same and counsel was not
deficient, nor was Rouster prejudiced, by counsel's omission in
failing to file a motion to separate trials before sentencing.
C. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel/Fundamental Error in
Penalty Phase Instructions. Rouster argues counsel was ineffective for failing to raise penalty phase instruction issues. He alternatively argues each alleged instruction error was
The four errors alleged by Rouster are: (a) the
instructions did not inform the jury they were to weigh each co-
defendant's mitigating and aggravating circumstances separately,
(b) the instructions failed to inform the jury that if they found
Rouster was sufficiently intoxicated, this finding would negate the
intentionality requirements inherent in two of the aggravating
factors urged by the State, (c) that the jury should have been
instructed on what sentencing alternatives were available to the
judge if they did not recommend the death penalty, and (d) the
instructions might have led jurors to believe they were required to
find mitigating circumstances unanimously.
Rouster argues his counsel were ineffective for failing to ask
the court to instruct the jury that they were obligated to consider
whether the death penalty was appropriate for the petitioner based
solely on his own actions and intent. He argues that without any
such instruction the jury could consider evidence entered for or
against co-defendant Darnell Williams in determining Rouster's
death sentence, thereby violating the Eighth Amendment's
requirement of "precise and individualized sentencing."
(Appellant's Br. at 97-98 (citing Stringer v. Black, 503 U.S. 222,
When a jury or judge sentences an individual to death, the
Eighth Amendment requires "an individualized determination on the
basis of the character of the individual and the circumstances of
the crime." Zant v. Stephens, 462 U.S. 862, 879 (1983) (emphasis
omitted). In Rouster's case, the trial court made it clear to the
jury that Rouster was to be sentenced on the basis of his
individual acts and character by instructing them:
The jury may recommend the death penalty be imposed against defendant, Gregory Anthony Rouster, only if it finds:
1. that the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of one of the aggravating circumstances alleged in the charging information against Gregory Anthony Rouster, and
2. that any mitigating circumstances that exist for Gregory Anthony Rouster are outweighed by one or more of the aggravating circumstances for Gregory Anthony Rouster.
(T.R. at 120.) In light of this instruction, trial counsel need
not have asked for any more.
Rouster says his trial counsel should have offered a penalty
phase instruction informing the jury that, if proven, Rouster's
intoxication could have negated the intent requirements inherent in
two of the three statutory aggravating factors alleged by the State
(intentionally killing John Rease and intentionally killing
Henrietta Rease during the commission or attempted commission of a
knowing or intentional taking of property).
The jury was instructed on the defense of intoxication during the guilt phase but not during the sentencing phase. At sentencing, Rouster's counsel did not offer an instruction on the intoxication defense as to aggravating circumstances but did argue to the jury that whether Rouster intentionally killed the Reases was an open issue during sentencing since Rouster was convicted under the felony murder portion of Ind. Code § 35-42-1-1. See footnote 9 He also argued that the evidence of Rouster's intoxication was sufficient
to show Rouster could not have intentionally killed the victims.
Johnson v. State explains how the intoxication defense should be considered within the context of death penalty sentencing.
In Indiana, voluntary intoxication can be offered as a defense to any crime. It follows a fortiori from the provision of the death sentence statute defining the aggravating circumstances applicable . . . that voluntary intoxication [may be] properly asserted . . . as a defense to . . . aggravating circumstance[s], and as a mitigating circumstance as well. The basic assumption underlying the defense is that drug and alcohol intoxication may be so severe as to prevent a person from forming a criminal intent, yet not so severe as to prevent that person from performing acts required to commit the crime.
584 N.E.2d 1092, 1099-1100 (Ind. 1992), cert. denied 506 U.S. 853
(1992) (internal citations omitted). The intoxication defense is
still available to defendants at death penalty sentencing because
the State is required to prove its alleged aggravating factors
beyond a reasonable doubt before the jury may consider them. See
Ind. Code Ann. § 35-50-2-9(a) (West Supp. 1997).
On the other hand, failure to submit an instruction is not deficient performance if the court would have refused the
instruction anyway. Such would have been the case here.
The intoxication defense cannot prevail if evidence shows the
defendant had the ability to perform tasks such as attempting to
hide his crime, giving instructions to others, or taking himself
from place to place immediately following the crime. Montgomery v.
State, 521 N.E.2d 1306 (Ind. 1988). The evidence here shows that
Rouster was able to perform physical and mental acts to such an
extent that it is extremely unlikely the jury would have found
Rouster so intoxicated that he was unable to engage in intentional
The facts indicate Rouster felt that the Reases owed him money and he declared that he was going to get it. Rouster, 600 N.E.2d at 1344. After Rouster and Williams arrived at the Rease home, witnesses overheard Rouster say to the Reases that "he wanted his share." Id. at 1345. Henrietta Rease asked everyone to leave and the group complied, but lingered nearby to discuss their next step. Williams told Rouster, "she's gypping you out of your money." Id. Another teenager told Williams and Rouster, "you all have guns . . . go take the money." Id. Rouster said "let's go rob them." Id. A witness testified she saw Rouster and Williams enter the Rease home together and then heard shots. She also said she saw a man in a white shirt (Rouster was wearing white while Williams wore blue) enter the house with a gun in his back pocket and then heard gunfire.
Rouster was able to deliberate, communicate, and then act towards a chosen end. Given evidence that Rouster was in control of his faculties and the lack of evidence that Rouster was intoxicated to the extreme level necessary to provide an affirmative defense, See footnote 11 we conclude that the trial court would have refused an intoxication instruction and that counsel was thus not deficient for failing to tender one.
In its closing argument the State argued to the jury:
No[t] executing them will, is not the only way to guarantee that they will never do anything again. They may serve up to 120 years in prison. . . . The minimum is 30 for each crime they can be sentenced between 30 and 60 years. One crime can be stacked on top of another or they can be together. So, the maximum they may get between the two homicides is 120 years. The minimum sentence is 30 years and no matter what number they get in between there or at the top or at the low end, they're still eligible for release if they do half of that. So, if they receive the maximum sentence, they may be out in 60 years. If they receive the minimum sentence, they could be out in 15 years. That is the status of the law if you do not impose the death penalty in this case.
(T.R. at 3139-40.) The instructions the court gave stated:
In the State of Indiana, if the death penalty is not imposed, the sentence for murder is a fixed sentence of from thirty (30) to sixty (60) years. The presumptive penalty is forty (40) years. The Court at sentencing imposes a specific number of years within that range.
In the State of Indiana, a defendant can earn credit for good behavior to apply against the sentence, with a maximum allowable credit of fifty percent (50%) of the sentence imposed by the Court.
(T.R. at 175A.) No information within the court's instructions informed the jury about the potential for consecutive or concurrent sentencing.
Rouster argues that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury at sentencing on what options were available to the judge if the jury did not recommend death. The court's procedures complied with the death penalty sentencing statute then
in force, Ind. Code Ann. § 35-50-2-9 (West 1986), and thus the
court's instructions were within the bounds of Indiana law at the
Rouster claims, however, that these procedures violated
his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process as that right was
described in Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154 (1994). In
Simmons, the Court held that "where the defendant's future
dangerousness is at issue, and state law prohibits the defendant's
release on parole, due process requires that the sentencing jury be
informed that the defendant is parole ineligible." Id. at 156.
Rouster reads this case for the broad proposition that a
defendant's due process rights are violated whenever there is a
possibility a defendant may be sentenced to death and the jury is
not instructed on the possibility of concurrent or consecutive
Rouster's argument is unavailing. Simmons was handed down more than a year after we decided Rouster's case on appeal. Because Simmons was unavailable to either Rouster's trial or appellate counsel, we cannot say their respective performances were deficient for their failure to make a claim based on Simmons, even
if we accept Rouster's reading of that case.
Rouster argues the instructions given the jury failed to
inform jurors that their determinations regarding mitigating
factors should be made individually by each juror and did not need
to be unanimous. The relevant instructions follow:
The defendants may present any additional evidence
relevant to the aggravating circumstance alleged or any
of the mitigating circumstances provided by the statute.
The mitigating circumstances that may be considered are
(seven possible mitigating factors were listed by the court including "[a]ny other circumstances appropriate for consideration").
In the second phase of this trial, the burden is upon the State to prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt the aggravating circumstance set forth in the charging information wherein the State is seeking the death penalty. . . .
. . . .
In weighing the testimony to determine what or whom
you will believe, you should use your own knowledge,
experience and common sense gained from day to day
living. . . . You should give the greatest weight to
that evidence which convinces you most strongly of its
I have prepared and submit forms of verdict to meet
all phases of this case, which you may use; when you have
reached your verdict, have it signed by your foreman and
return it into open court. Your verdict must be
unanimous. . . .
(T.R. at 169A, 170A, 172A, 173A, 176A.)
Rouster argues that because the jury was instructed that their
verdict had to be unanimous, they likely believed they were
required to find mitigating factors unanimously before they could
consider such mitigators in the their mitigating factors/aggravator
factors balancing process.
Rouster bases his argument on the decisions in Mills v. Maryland, 486 U.S. 367 (1988), and McKoy v. North Carolina, 494 U.S. 433 (1990). He rightfully does not argue that Indiana's death
penalty sentencing scheme is unconstitutional. See Harrison v.
State, 644 N.E.2d 1243, 1259 (Ind. 1995), cert. denied 117 S.Ct.
307 (1996) (holding that Ind. Code § 35-50-2-9 (1988) complies with
Eighth Amendment requirements as elucidated in Mills). Instead, he
argues the actual sentencing instructions given by the trial court
were constitutionally invalid because the instructions may have
misled the jury into believing they were required to find
mitigating factors unanimously.
In Mills, the Court held that Maryland's death penalty sentencing scheme was constitutionally invalid because there was a substantial probability that reasonable jurors, upon receiving the judge's instructions, and in attempting to complete the verdict forms given them by the court, may have thought they were precluded from considering any mitigating evidence unless all twelve jurors agreed on the existence of a particular mitigating circumstance. Mills, 486 U.S. at 384. In McKoy, the Supreme Court applied Mills in finding North Carolina's death penalty scheme similarly unconstitutional. McKoy, 494 U.S. at 439. While both of these cases dealt with state-wide sentencing procedures, the holding of Mills applies to instructions given by individual courts as well since the Court stated that for Eighth Amendment purposes the cause of a juror's confusion is irrelevant. Mills, 486 U.S. at 375. The issue of concern is whether a sentencer might have failed to consider all the mitigating evidence and thereby have unconstitutionally imposed the death penalty. Id. Accordingly,
the critical question is whether jurors in Rouster's case could
have reasonably believed they could not consider mitigating factors
in balancing the aggravators and mitigators unless they unanimously
found these mitigating factors existed. Id. at 375-76.
We are satisfied the jurors were not misled. Only the court's
final instruction mentioned unanimity, stating, "[y]our verdict
must be unanimous." (T.R. at 176A.) Other instructions given at
the sentencing phase indicated to jurors that they, individually,
were responsible for considering the evidence. (See Instructions
8 & 9, T.R. at 172A, 173A.) Only an instruction to jurors which
explicitly directed them to consider Rouster's mitigating factors
independently, and directed them that they were not required to
find such factors unanimously before considering them in their
aggravating/mitigating factors balancing, would have been less
We do not believe that any reasonable juror could
have concluded that she was obligated to unanimously agree upon
mitigating factors with her fellow jurors before she could consider
them in her balancing process.
We have considered the errors that Rouster claims his trial
counsel made during pre-trial, at the guilt phase of his trial, and
at sentencing. We conclude that counsels' performance was not
ineffective during any of these stages of trial, nor was their
performance ineffective when we consider Rouster's claims
Rouster asserts he was denied his right to effective
assistance of counsel because of systemic defects within the Lake
County system of providing public defender services for indigent
capital defendants. As an offer of proof the post-conviction court
received as an offer of proof a report that Rouster asserts
demonstrates these flaws. The court did not admit the report into
evidence because it concluded that Rouster's claim was waived on
post-conviction as it related to his ineffective assistance of
trial counsel claim. The court alternatively determined the report
was inadmissible because it concluded that the report contained no
information about the performance of the public defender in
We recently resolved an identical claim, holding against the claimant. See Coleman v. State, 703 N.E.2d 1022 (Ind. 1998); Brown v. State, 698 N.E.2d 1132 (Ind. 1998); Roche v. State, 690 N.E.2d 1115 (Ind. 1997). So we say here.
Rouster claims that evidence presented against him was false
and that the prosecutors of his case knew or should have known as
much. Specifically, he asserts that the police found Mrs. Rease's
body on a bed in the bedroom and that a photograph admitted to the
jury showing Mrs. Rease's body wedged between a dresser and the bed
misrepresented the crime scene. He contends that whether Mrs.
Rease was found on the bed or on the floor is a crucial fact
because the State argued the bedroom was ransacked to show the
murders occurred in the course of a robbery. In considering
Rouster's claim, the post-conviction court wrote:
At trial, certain photographs admitted into evidence were represented to the jury as accurate depictions of the crime scene as the police officers first found it. One of the pictures showed the body of Mrs. Rease on its side and wedged between a bed and a chest of drawers. Officer Rita Dorsey, a police officer who found the body, testified to the petitioner's jury that Mrs. Rease's body was found on the floor of the rear bedroom and the bedroom had been ransacked. Based on the contents of an offense report prepared by Officer Busee Smith and the testimony of Officer Michael Grault (two other police officers at the crime scene), the petitioner alleges that the body of Mrs. Rease was found on the bed and not as depicted to the jury. The petitioner claims this was significant because the state referred to the position of the body in closing arguments during the penalty phase.
We find that the body was almost certainly in the position depicted to the jury when the officers came on the scene. We conclude that the prosecuting attorney did not present evidence which he knew or should have known was false and that the position of the body was not material to the petitioner's judgments of conviction or death sentence. The evidence presented by the petitioner in an attempt to show that the body was on the bed or in a position other than that depicted to the jury was not nearly as persuasive as the testimony of Officer Dorsey
at the hearing on the petition for postconviction relief.
Her testimony and the photograph itself convince us that
the body was not moved before it was photographed. More
importantly, however, the position of the body was only
mentioned by the prosecuting attorney when comparing the
attack on the Reases with a prior robbery committed by
codefendant Williams. The argument was meant to bolster
the allegation that a robbery was intended by the
perpetrators who attacked the Reases. In this respect,
it was the fact that the mattress had been turned up that
was significant. The petitioner argues that the mattress
could not have been found turned up if Mrs. Rease's body
was on top of the bed. Because the fact that the bedroom
had been ransacked and the mattress turned up was only
part of the evidence which established the robbery
component of the offense, we conclude that the testimony
on the position of the body was not material to the
petitioner's judgements of convictions or death sentence.
Thus, a fundamental error did not exist.
(P-C.R. at 1201-02 (footnotes omitted).) We consider Rouster's
argument with these findings by the post-conviction court in mind.
Rouster acknowledges that because he is appealing from a
negative judgment of a post-conviction court, it is now his burden
to convince us that the evidence as a whole leads unerringly and
unmistakably to a decision opposite that which the post-conviction
court reached. To meet this burden, Rouster offers us the
testimony of Officers Michael Gault and Rita Dorsey Allen. The
testimony of Officer Gault which Rouster claims proves that
evidence was falsified follows, beginning with an answer by Officer
A. I did look in through the southeast bedroom window, and I saw a woman who was laying over something.
Q. And when you looked in the window, were you able to
tell exactly what she was lying over?
A. No, but she was elevated. She was not laying on the floor; she was elevated.
. . . .
Q. Kind of a sitting position or laying position?
A. No. I refer to it like this way, your Honor, in the
old cowboy pictures, when they brought somebody in
who had been killed, he was thrown across a horse.
She was in that type of position right there.
. . . .
Q. Did you observe what the deceased female was bent
A. Might have been a dresser.
Q. Was it a bed?
A. I don't think so. I believe it was more like a
A. Was it a small roller bed?
Q. Counselor, again, to the best of my recollection,
she was laying on the edge of the dresser.
(P-C.R. at 1582-83; 1588-89.)
After we compare these statements with the photograph Rouster asserts the prosecution knowingly admitted as false evidence, we believe Gault's testimony not only fails to negate, but actually substantiates the veracity of the evidence in question. (Compare Officer Gault's Testimony, P-C.R. at 1583-1589, with the questioned photograph, T.R. at 1307.) Officer Allen's testimony also fails to show evidence was manipulated or misrepresented. At the post- conviction hearing, she testified that the questioned photograph depicted the position of Mrs. Rease at the time she was first found
by police to the best of her recollection. (P-C.R. at 1894-95.)
This evidence simply does not come close to "unerringly and
unmistakably" leading us to a decision opposite that reached by the
Because the facts which follow were discovered after Rouster's
post-conviction procedure was concluded, we rely on the information
provided by appellant's brief and on questions which we ordered to
be answered by Judge Letsinger on June 13, 1997.
On February 24, 1987, Gregory Rouster apparently filled out a psychological questionnaireSee footnote 14 to aid the Lake County Probation Department in compiling his pre-sentence investigation report. Our pre-sentence investigation procedure in place at the time required the court to furnish the defendant with the factual contents gathered through that process so that he may have a fair opportunity to controvert any included material. Ind. Code Ann. § 35-38-1-12(b) (West 1986). A trial attorney who worked on Rouster's case, Noah Holcomb, provided an affidavit in late 1996
which states that he was not informed at the time of Rouster's
sentencing that Rouster had been required to complete the
questionnaire. Holcomb also states he was not given a copy of the
questionnaire as it had been answered by Rouster. Judge Letsinger,
when asked whether Rouster's trial counsel or Rouster himself
received a copy of the questionnaire, replied:
The questionnaire is an attached exhibit to the pre- sentence investigation report in every criminal case in which I pass sentence. In indigent cases, that report is routinely provided to counsel for the defendant one (1) or two (2) days before the date of sentencing by leaving copies in the office of the Lake County Public Defender. I receive the report on the same day they do. Again I have to rely on routine practice to answer the question in the affirmative. No one representing the Appellant suggested to this court at sentencing in 1987 that they had not been provided with the pre-sentence report. Appellant's lead counsel was Robert L. Lewis, not Noah L. Holcomb. It could have been true that Mr. Holcomb never even saw the pre-sentence report. The practice is to prepare only (1) copy per defendant.
(Judge Letsinger's Responses to Questions by Order of the Supreme
We recently considered the issue of Judge Letsinger's pre- sentence questionnaire in Matheney v. State, 688 N.E.2d 883, 908-10 (Ind. 1997), petition for cert. filed (Aug. 28, 1998) (No. 98- 5867). In Matheney, we reviewed the aggravating and mitigating factors absent the psychological questionnaire to determine whether the death sentence was appropriate. Id. Because the circumstances
we confront here are procedurally identical, we will engage in the
same type of review.
The aggravating circumstances charged by the State were that
1. Intentionally killed John Rease during the commission or attempted commission of a knowing or intentional taking of property . . .
2. Intentionally killed Henrietta Rease during the
commission or attempted commission of a knowing or
intentional taking of property . . .
3. [Has] been convicted of the murder of John Rease and
(T.R. at 167A.) Because all of these aggravating factors relate
directly and solely to facts present at the time of the crimes, the
psychological questionnaire could not have been used by the judge
in considering or weighing these aggravators. The answers given by
Rouster in that document were completely irrelevant to whether any
of the three charged factors existed in fact. We further note, as
fully discussed in our previous opinion, that there was substantial
evidence proving all three aggravating factors beyond a reasonable
doubt. Rouster, 600 N.E.2d at 1350. Indeed, there was so much
evidence that Rouster himself, on direct appeal, conceded there was
sufficient evidence to prove the aggravating factors beyond a
reasonable doubt. Id.
The existence of the third aggravating factor is unassailable:
Rouster had been convicted of killing more than one person, namely
John Rease and Henrietta Rease, at the guilt phase. The evidence
also supports the conclusion that Rouster intentionally killed the
Reases while engaging or attempting to engage in a robbery. Here,
Rouster's specific intent is proven by facts which show that the
plan to rob the Reases originated in Rouster's mind and that he and
co-defendant Williams acted as a team in robbing and then killing
the Reases.See footnote
Justice DeBruler, dissenting on direct appeal, opined that we should have considered two ameliorative factors present within the aggravating facts. Rouster, 600 N.E.2d at 1352 (DeBruler, J., dissenting). First, Justice DeBruler felt that we should have more strongly considered that the Reases were armed and were warned of the pending danger when Rouster and Williams yelled and fired twice outside the house before entering a second time. Id. Second, he argued that greater account should have been taken of the possibility that Rouster believed the Reases had deprived him of six dollars of monthly support payments intended for Rouster's clothing, and that Rouster first discussed this matter with the Reases, even allowing himself to be thrown out of the house though he was armed, before eventually resorting to violence. Id. While
the facts identified by Justice DeBruler tend somewhat to
distinguish Rouster's acts from those of a truly cold-blooded
murderer, they are not so ameliorative as to outweigh the proven
The possible mitigating factors also validate the
recommendation of the jury. The evidence on the trial and post-
conviction records soundly refutes Rouster's assertion that he was
unable to form the required mens rea or that he was unable to
appreciate the criminality of his conduct due to mental disease or
defect. (See discussions supra Parts I.B.1 and I.B.2.) The facts
also demonstrate that Rouster was not dominated by his co-defendant
Williams, nor was Rouster under the influence of extreme emotional
disturbance at the time of the crime. Rouster's unstable
environment as a youth is worthy of consideration as a mitigating
factor, but this mitigator is in the low range.
Accordingly, we find the aggravating factors in Rouster's case
outweighed the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt.
Rouster asserts the cumulative effects of procedural irregularities at his post-conviction hearing caused him to be denied due process.
Second, Rouster argues that his November 29, 1995, motion for
leave to amend his second amended petition for post-conviction
relief should not have been denied by the post-conviction court.
He claims evidence showing Rouster's mother was a heroin abuser and
that her use of heroin while pregnant could have subjected him to
neurological deficiencies was not admitted in violation of his due
process rights. The denial of Rouster's motion was within the
discretion of the post-conviction court. The evidence Rouster
wished to present was cumulative. (See discussion supra Part
Third, Rouster argues his motion to be present during his post-conviction evidentiary hearing should have been granted. Rouster argues that his presence would have substantially assisted his counsel during the hearing. However, he cites no law indicating he was deprived of a statutory or constitutional right
due to the court's failure to grant his motion, nor does he argue
it was an abuse of the judge's discretion to deny his motion. This
is no basis for reversal.
We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.
Dickson, Sullivan, Selby, and Boehm, JJ., concur.
Question 1: Before sentencing Appellant, did you review the
questionnaire he completed?
Answer: Yes, I think so. I have no independent recollection of
reading this particular questionnaire but it was, and is, my
practice to do so.
. . . .
Question 3: Did you rely on Appellant's responses to the
questionnaire when sentencing him? If so, please explain.
Answer: This case is now over ten (10) years old. For that reason
it is impossible to even say I read the questionnaire. My answer to
that [question] was based on common practice. It was, and is, my
common practice to specifically refer to particular answers on the
record at sentencing. In the case of death penalty findings I would
specifically refer to answers if I were to rely on them for a
specific finding. There were no references to the questionnaire in
the findings. I conclude I did not rely on any answer or series of
(Judge Letsinger's Responses to Questions by Order of the Supreme Court of
Indiana, June 13, 1997.)
Converted from WP6.1 by the Access Indiana Information Network