Attorney for Appellant
Teresa D. Harper
Liell, McNeil, & Harper
Attorneys for Appellee
Jeffrey A. Modisett
Attorney General of Indiana
Arthur Thaddeus Perry
Deputy Attorney General
INDIANA SUPREME COURT
EUGENE C. RUFFIN,
Appellant (Defendant below),
STATE OF INDIANA,
Appellee (Plaintiff below ).
) Supreme Court No.
APPEAL FROM THE MARION SUPERIOR COURT
The Honorable Jane Magnus-Stinson, Judge
Cause No. 49G06-9601-CF-006417
ON DIRECT APPEAL
March 28, 2000
Defendant Eugene Ruffin was convicted of felony murder and reckless homicide for shooting
a man to death. Defendant argues that (1) the evidence was insufficient
to support his felony murder conviction and (2) it was improper to impose
judgments and sentences for both felony murder and reckless homicide. We find
the evidence sufficient, but agree that convictions of both felony murder and reckless
homicide for killing the same person cannot stand.
We have jurisdiction over this direct appeal because the longest single sentence exceeds
50 years. Ind. Const. art. VII, ' 4; Ind. Appellate Rule 4(A)(7).
The facts most favorable to the verdict reveal that on December 18, 1995,
Eugene C. Ruffin, wearing a Chicago Bulls jacket and a pullover shirt
with a hood, went to Chad Taylor=s house and borrowed a shotgun from
him. The victim, Emberson, owed Defendant $140.00, and Defendant told Taylor that
he wanted the shotgun so he could collect his money.
Later that same evening, Michael Harris was walking down an alley and noticed
efendant, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, standing next to Emberson=s truck, and talking to
Emberson who was sitting in the driver=s seat. Defendant then walked around
the truck, got into the passenger=s side, and the truck began to move.
As Harris continued to walk down the alley toward a phone booth,
he heard a Aloud pop sound@ from the direction of the truck.
He turned around to see that the truck had stopped moving.
Annie Burns, who lived nearby, also heard a sound she described as a
Ashot.@ Burns looked out her window after hearing the noise and saw
Emberson=s truck in the alley. She also saw someone wearing a hood
over his head running from the direction of the truck. At approximately
the same time, David Whiteside, Annie Burns=s son and a friend of Emberson=s,
went outside, saw Emberson=s truck, saw someone wearing a sports jacket and hood
running from the truck, and walked over to the truck to see what
was happening. When Whiteside realized that Emberson was injured, he ran back
to the house and told his mother to call the police. Emberson
died of a single close range gunshot wound to the head.
Defendant returned to Chad Taylor
=s house the same evening. Taylor testified that
Defendant looked Ashocked, dazed@ and had blood on the left side of his
head, hands, Chicago Bulls jacket, and pants. Defendant told Taylor and Larry
Baugh, Taylor=s housemate, that he saw Emberson, confronted him, and got into an
argument with him during which Defendant pulled the gun out. Defendant and
Emberson fought over the gun and it went off, shooting Emberson. Later
in the week, police came to Taylor=s house with a search warrant and
found a shotgun shell and a Chicago Bulls jacket covered with blood consistent
with Emberson=s. As part of a different search, the police also seized
from Defendant a plaid jacket which had blood on it consistent with Emberson=s.
Defendant was charged with Murder,
and Conspiracy to Commit Robbery,
Class B felony. The trial court granted Defendant=s Motion for Judgment on
the Evidence as to the Conspiracy to Commit Robbery count. The jury
convicted Defendant of Reckless Homicide,
a lesser included offense of Count I, Murder,
and Felony Murder as charged in Count II. The trial court sentenced
Defendant to a 60-year imprisonment for his felony murder conviction and an eight-year
imprisonment for his reckless homicide conviction C the reckless homicide sentence to be
served concurrent to the felony murder sentence.
Additional facts will be provided as necessary.
Defendant asserts that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to establish the
requisite element of intent to commit robbery
C the underlying offense for Defendant=s
felony murder charge.
We neither reweigh the evidence nor assess the credibility
of witnesses when reviewing a sufficiency of the evidence claim. Thornton v.
State, 712 N.E.2d 960, 961 (Ind. 1999); Hurst v. State, 699 N.E.2d 651,
654 (Ind. 1998); Roach v. State, 695 N.E.2d 934, 941 (Ind. 1998), reh=g
denied. We only consider the evidence favorable to the jury=s verdict, draw
all reasonable inferences therefrom, and will affirm a conviction if the probative evidence
and reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence could have led the jury to
find a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Love v. State,
721 N.E.2d 1244, 1245 (Ind. 1999).
The evidence shows that Defendant told Taylor that he wanted the shotgun in
rder to collect money from someone who owed him a debt. After
Emberson had been killed, Defendant told Taylor and Baugh that he confronted the
person who owed him money and pulled the gun out when Defendant and
that person began to argue. Baugh specifically stated that Defendant claimed to
have killed the man for money. In addition, when police examined Emberson=s
body and the crime scene, the upper left breast pocket of Emberson=s shirt
appeared to have been pulled open and down. From this evidence, the
jury could reasonably infer that Defendant killed Emberson while attempting to take money
from him and searched Emberson before or after he killed him in order
to find some money.
Defendant also claims that he merely intended to collect a debt from Emberson
and did not intend to commit robbery as is required by the statute.
=s Br. at 7-8. However, the Alaw does not sanction the
use of self-help with firearms as a debt collection device.@ Sheckles v.
State, 501 N.E.2d 1053, 1055 (Ind. 1996). Defendant=s attempt to collect a
debt by force does not negate the criminal intent element of robbery.
See id. The evidence was ample to support the jury=s verdict
that Defendant was guilty of felony murder.
Defendant argues that it was improper for the trial court to enter judgment
and impose sentence for both felony murder and reckless homicide. We agree.
It is well-settled that a Adefendant may not be convicted of both >knowing
or intentional= murder and felony murder for the killing of the same person.@
Garrett v. State, 714 N.E.2d 618, 621 (Ind. 1999) (citing Hicks v.
State, 544 N.E.2d 500, 505 (Ind. 1989); Sandlin v. State, 461 N.E.2d 1116,
1119 (Ind. 1984)). For the same reason C that Athis case
involves the homicide of only one person,@ Sandlin, 461 N.E.2d at 1119 (citing
James v. State, 274 Ind. 304, 305, 411 N.E.2d 618, 617 (1980)) C
Defendant may not be convicted of both felony murder and reckless homicide for
killing the same person.
When judgment of conviction cannot legally be entered on all counts upon
which guilty verdicts have been returned, judgment is entered on one count and
the remaining co
nvictions are vacated. Defendant argues that we should vacate his
felony murder conviction because it was the last entered, citing Clifft v. Indiana
Dept of State Revenue, 660 N.E.2d 310 (Ind. 1995). In Clifft, the
Department of State Revenue assessed a controlled substance excise tax against the defendant.
See id. at 313. The defendant was later convicted of criminal
drug possession for the same drug offense. See id. We held
that the criminal conviction constituted a second jeopardy for the same drug offense
and must therefore be vacated. See id. In Clifft, the
tax penalty and criminal prosecution were separate proceedings, pursued at different times.
Here, however, Defendant=s convictions for felony murder and reckless homicide resulted from charges
prosecuted simultaneously in a single trial. Under such circumstances, there is no
impediment to vacating either conviction.
We affirm Defendant
=s conviction and 60-year sentence for felony murder and vacate Defendant=s
conviction and sentence for reckless homicide.
SHEPARD, C.J, and BOEHM, and RUCKER, JJ., concur.
DICKSON, J., concurs in result.
Several entries in the record refer to Defendant by his nickname, ASqueaky.@
Ind. Code ' 35-42-1-1(1) (1993).
Id. ' 35-42-1-1(2).
Id. '' 35-41-5-2 & 35-42-5-1.
Id. ' 35-42-1-5.
The jury instruction for Defendant=s felony murder charge read in part:
To convict the defendant the State must have proven each of
the following elements:
The defendant, Eugene C. Ruffin;
another human being, namely: John Emberson,
while committing or attempting to commit robbery which is to knowingly, while armed
with a deadly weapon, that is: a sho
tgun, take from the person or
presence of John Emberson property, that is: United States Currency, by putting John
Emberson in fear or by using or threatening the use of force on