ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE
Susan K. Carpenter Karen M. Freeman-Wilson
Public Defender of Indiana Attorney General of Indiana
J. Michael Sauer Eileen Euzen
Deputy Public Defender Deputy Attorney General
Indianapolis, Indiana Indianapolis, Indiana
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
JACK R. WADSWORTH, JR., ) ) Appellant (Defendant Below ), ) ) v. ) No. 42S00-9909-CR-490 ) STATE OF INDIANA, ) ) Appellee (Plaintiff Below ). )
July 17, 2001
On January 7, 1999, Graydon June Goodwin was house-sitting Wamplers home while Wampler
was in the hospital recovering from a stroke. Two neighbors, Eddie Westfall
and Ed Schriefer, arrived at Wamplers home to check on Goodwin and found
him lying on the floor inside the home. Goodwin died from blood
loss caused by a gunshot wound to the facial regions of the head.
Westfall and Schriefer noticed that the front door was ajar and that the
side entrance that visitors always used was locked. (R. at 762, 836-38,
1130, 1143.) Detective Dave Anderson of the Indiana State Police did not
observe any signs of forced entry in any of the doors or windows.
(R. at 143.)
On January 10, 1999, Geyer anonymously called the police and informed them that
she heard Jack Wadsworth and Davis discuss going back and finishing the job
and then theyd have lots of money and other things. (R. at
1166-68, 1172-74, 1205-06.) Two days later, in a taped statement, Wadsworth said
that he and Davis went to Wamplers home because Davis said that they
could get some money there. (Supp. R. at 68, 75, 89, 92, 94,
102.) Wadsworth said that he and Davis first tried to get in
the basement window. (Supp. R. at 101-03.) Wadsworth explained that Goodwin
let them in the front door after they told him that they were
cold and needed to use the bathroom. (Supp. R. at 67-69, 73,
Wadsworth said that he went to the bathroom where he found and examined
a gun. (Supp. R. at 67, 69.) He pulled the bolt
back and discovered that the gun was loaded. (Supp. R. at 69,
90.) When he replaced the gun, it began to tip over so
he picked it up again. (Supp. R. at 70, 90.) After
opening the bathroom door, he says he pointed the gun at the window
and accidentally fired the gun at Goodwin coming around to the bathroom.
(Supp. R. at 66-67, 70-72, 91, 95.) The bullet struck Goodwin in
the head. (Supp. R. at 67, 77-78, 95; R. at 1071.)
Wadsworth and Davis took several guns, phones and rings from the house.
Wadsworth later told his fiancé that he shot Goodwin.
The State charged Wadsworth with murder, burglary and theft. At trial, the
court denied Wadsworths tendered instruction for reckless homicide as a lesser included offense
to murder. The jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts. The
trial court sentenced Wadsworth to sixty-five years for murder, to be served consecutively
with his concurrent sentences of fifteen years for burglary and three years for
When a defendant requests an instruction for a lesser included offense of the
charged crime, a trial court must follow the steps laid out in Wright
v. State, 658 N.E.2d 563 (Ind. 1995). At issue in this case
is the last of these steps: whether there is a serious evidentiary dispute
regarding the element distinguishing the greater offense from the lesser offense. Id.
at 567. If such a dispute exists and a jury could conclude
that the lesser offense was committed but not the greater, then it is
reversible error for a trial court not to give an instruction . .
. . Id. When, as in this case, the record provides
neither a finding that there is no serious evidentiary dispute nor a specific
claim from the defendant as to the nature of that dispute, the standard
of review is an abuse of discretion. Brown v. State, 703 N.E.2d
1010, 1020 (Ind. 1998).
We thus examine the evidence to determine whether a serious evidentiary dispute existed regarding Wadsworths shooting Goodwin. Wadsworth asserts that because he was handling a loaded gun, with which he was not familiar, inside a small house with other persons present, late at night, a jury could have concluded that his action was reckless rather than knowing. (Appellants Br. at 10.)
A person acts knowingly if, when he engages in the conduct, he is
aware of a high probability that he is doing so, whereas, a person
acts recklessly if he engages in the conduct in plain, conscious and unjustifiable
disregard of harm that might result and the disregard involves a substantial deviation
from acceptable standards of conduct. Ind. Code Ann. § 35-41-2-2(b),(c)(West 1998).
In his confession, Wadsworth stated that he discovered a gun while using Wamplers bathroom. After opening the door of the bathroom, he fired the gun causing a bullet to penetrate Goodwins face. Other evidence revealed that this gun required a great deal of trigger pressure to fire. (R. at 1072, 1140-41, 1333-34.) Moreover, a forensic pathologist testified that Goodwin likely was shot at close range. (R. at 1071-72.)
From this evidence, we think the trial court was warranted in finding no serious evidentiary dispute about the state of Wadsworths knowledge. Wadsworth must have known that firing directly at a person at such close range is highly probable to result in death. See Sanders v. State, 704 N.E.2d 119, 121-23 (Ind. 1999)(no serious evidentiary dispute where defendant killed victim by firing handgun at close range); Owens v. State, 544 N.E.2d 1375, 1377 (Ind. 1989)(firing gun in direction of individual is substantial evidence from which jury may infer intent to kill).
The trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing Wadsworths reckless homicide
When reviewing a conviction for the sufficiency of
evidence, we do not reweigh the evidence or judge the credibility of witnesses. Baker v. State, 273 Ind. 64, 402 N.E.2d 951 (1980). Instead, we look to the evidence most favorable to the verdict and all of the reasonable inferences that evidence provides to determine whether there is substantial evidence of probative value to support the judgment. Id. If a reasonable trier of fact could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, we will affirm the trial courts decision. Case v. State, 458 N.E.2d 223 (Ind. 1984).
To convict Wadsworth of burglary, as charged, the
evidence must prove that he did knowingly break and enter into Wamplers home
with intent to commit a felony of theft in it. See Ind.
Code Ann. § 35-43-2-1 (West 1998). The breaking element may be
proven entirely by circumstantial evidence. McCovens v. State, 539 N.E.2d 26 (Ind.
Wadsworth asserts that Goodwin had let him and
Davis in the front door, because they were cold and needed to use
the bathroom. (Appellants Br. at 12.) He supports this contention with
the fact that Wamplers home showed no signs of forced entry. (Id.)
We recently examined the sufficiency of the breaking evidence with regard to
these same facts in Davis v. State, 743 N.E.2d 751 (Ind. 2001).
In Davis, Wadsworths partner-in-crime also asserted that evidence
of a breaking was insufficient where there were no signs of forced entry.
Id. at 753. Davis stated that he and Wadsworth scheme[d] to
get Goodwin to open an outer door to the house and allow one
of them to sneak in without having to break in. Id. at
754. We held there, as we do here, that the State presented
circumstantial evidence that Goodwin would not have permitted [the defendant] to enter Wamplers
home. Id. at 754.
Goodwin stayed at Wamplers home to guard against a burglary while Wampler was in the hospital recovering from a stroke. Wadsworth admits that he and Davis tried to enter the home through a basement window before approaching the front door of the home. Goodwins body was discovered near the couch where he normally slept with a gun next to him. (R. at 839, 878, States Exh. 18.) The door that Goodwin used to let visitors into Wamplers home was locked, and the front door was ajar.
As we said in Davis, [T]his evidence allowed a reasonable inference that [the
defendants] entry was unauthorized. Moreover, we think it implausible that a man
occupying a home solely to guard against entry of potential burglars would willingly
let two strangers in the front door. Davis, 743 N.E.2d at 754.
See Utley v. State, 589 N.E.2d 232 (Ind. 1992), cert. denied, 506
U.S. 1058 (1993)(husbands testimony that doors to home were locked when he left
and that wife would not open door to stranger provided inference that force
was used). Wadsworths claim presents a close question, but we conclude
the evidence was sufficient to convict him of burglary.