Attorneys for Appellee
Attorney General of Indiana
Deputy Attorney General
Appellant (Defendant below),
STATE OF INDIANA, Appellee (Plaintiff below ).
) Supreme Court No.
October 5, 2001
Defendant and Fredrick were tried together and found guilty of murder.
trial court sentenced Defendant to 65 years.
On January 6, 2000, Defendant asked to withdraw his motion for a separate
efendant filed a Waiver of Right to Have Separate Trial From
Co-Defendant and Waiver of Conflict of Interest.
This document indicated the following:
(a) Defendant had been advised by his attorney that he had a
right to a separate jury trial and that he was making his request
for a joint trial despite his attorneys advice recommending a separate trial; (b)
Defendants attorney had informed him that the state would call a snitch who
would testify that Fredrick confessed to the crime and implicated Defendant in his
confession; and (c) Defendants attorney had advised him that he had the right
to confront and cross examine ALL witnesses against [him], including anything that [Fredrick]
purportedly told any witnesses, and that if he proceeded with a joint trial
with Fredrick and Fredrick exercised his right to remain silent and not testify,
Defendant would [lose his] right to confront and cross-examine him as to those
statements and confessions made to the snitches... .
Indiana Code § 35-34-1-11(b) provides:
Whenever two (2) or more defendants have been joined for trial in the
same indictment or information and one (1) or more defendants move for a
separate trial because another defendant has made an out-of-court statement which makes reference
to the moving defendant but is not admissible as ev
idence against him, the
court shall require the prosecutor to elect:
a joint trial at which the statement is not admitted into evidence;
a joint trial at which the statement is admitted into evidence only after all references to the moving defendant have been effectively deleted; or
a separate trial for the moving defendant.
A motion for a separate trial must be made prior to the commencement
of the trial.
Ind. Code § 35-34-1-12(a) (1998). A defendants right
to a separate trial is waived if the defendant fails to make the
motion at the appropriate time. Id.; Townsend v. State, 533 N.E.2d 1215,
1225 (Ind. 1989).
As a matter of statutory construction, it appears that the trial court was
correct in granting Defendant's request to withdraw his motion for separate trial.
Indiana Code § 35-34-1-11 requires the trial court to take action regarding separation
of trials only where one party moves for a separate trial. Defendant
withdrew his motion for a separate trial. This returned Defendant to the
position of not having requested a separate trial. This is sufficient under
the statute to waive a defendants right to a separate trial.
See Ind. Code § 35-34-1-12(a); Townsend v. State, 533 N.E.2d at 1225.
Defendant's claim for relief, as we understand it, is not that the trial
court acted co
ntrary to the severance statute but the because his request to
withdraw his motion for separate trial was not voluntary, knowing, or intelligent, the
trial court should not have granted the request. While Defendant on appeal
does not describe the circumstances that caused him to submit the request, it
seems clear from the text of the request that it was done over
the vigorous protest of his trial counsel. Given the circumstances, it would
have been helpful if the trial court had held a hearing on the
record on the matter.
However, we are unable to conclude from the record or the argument presented
on appeal that the trial court committed reversible error in granting the request.
The most that can be said in support of Defendant's claim is
that the waiver has numerous misspellings, lacks a caption, is single spaced, is
not signed by counsel, has been dated by filling in a blank, and
releases counsel from claims of ineffective assistance for not filing a Motion to
Separate, which motion was filed the previous day. Appellants Br. at
8. But these attri
butes of the request do not undermine the fact
that the language of the request is quite explicit and detailed in its
discussion of the risks of a joint trial. And there is nothing
of record or in Defendants argument on appeal that suggests that there was
anything involuntary, i.e., coerced, about his request.
More generally, the decision by a defendant in a criminal case to be tried jointly with or separately from a co-defendant is a highly fact-sensitive strategic decision that will vary from defendant to defendant and case to case. Here there is no evidence to suggest that D efendant made anything other than a strategic decision over the protest of his counsel to be tried together with Fredrick. Absent error by the trial court in applying applicable law, he is not entitled to a new trial merely because that decision did not work out to his satisfaction.
Tricia Mock testified as to what happened on the night of the murder.
She also test
ified that her testimony was inconsistent with earlier statements she
had made to the police. Mock initially had told the police that she
didnt know anything about the murder. Later, she told the police that
Defendant and Fredrick killed Thomas, but didnt tell them that she was involved.
She eventually told the police the story set forth under Background supra,
including her involvement in the murder. During cross-examination, defense counsel questioned Mock
extensively regarding her inconsistent statements. In questioning Mock, defense counsel elicited that
there were motives for her to lie. Counsel attacked her credibility by
pointing out errors in her statements about certain details of the crime.
Throughout the cross-examination, defense counsel vigorously attacked her credibility.
In reviewing a sufficiency of the evidence claim, the Court neither reweighs the
idence nor assesses the credibility of the witnesses. See Brasher v.
State, 746 N.E.2d 71, 72 (Ind. 2001); Chambliss v. State, 746 N.E.2d 73,
77 (Ind. 2001). We look to the evidence most favorable to
the verdict and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom. Id. We will affirm
the conviction if there is probative evidence from which a reasonable jury could
have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Id.
Within the narrow limits of the incredible dubiosity rule, a court may impinge
upon a jurys function to judge the credibility of a witness.
v. State, 706 N.E.2d 1078, 1079 (Ind. 1999). If a sole witness
presents inherently improbable testimony and there is a complete lack of circumstantial evidence,
a defendant's conviction may be reversed. Id. This is appropriate only
where the court has confronted inherently improbable testimony or coerced, equivocal, wholly uncorroborated
testimony of incredible dubiosity. Id. We reiterate that application of this
rule is rare and that the standard to be applied is whether the
testimony is so incredibly dubious or inherently improbable that no reasonable person could
believe it. Stephenson v. State, 742 N.E.2d 463, 498 (Ind. 2001)
(quoting Bradford v. State, 675 N.E.2d 296, 300 (Ind. 1996)).
We find the evidence sufficient to support Defendants conviction and that the rule
of incredible dubiosity does not apply in the circumstances of this case.
Mocks various stat
ements and her testimony at trial were somewhat inconsistent and possibly
equivocal. However, her testimony was not inherently improbable, nor was there a
complete lack of circumstantial evidence. Mocks story was consistent with the evidence
found at the crime scene. Police found Thomass body near his room.
There was a trail of blood from the threshold of Thomass room
to where his body was found. A witness also testified that Defendant
and Fredrick confessed to the crime.
Mock made various statements during interviews, depositions, and the trial that were not
consistent, but during cross-examination Defendant questioned her extensively regarding the inconsistencies. As
we have stated, it is for the jury to decide the credibility of
a witness. Here, the jury was informed of Mocks previous statements, it
was informed of the evidence at the crime scene, and could therefore evaluate
her credibility for itself.
During the trial, Tyrand Terry, a jailhouse informant, testified that both Defendant and
Fredrick had made incriminating statements, including bragging about what they did to Mr.
Thomas. Terry also testified regarding specific conversations with Defendant and Fredrick.
Terry said that he took notes detailing the highlights of each conversation.
He referred to these notes during his testimony. The State then moved
to admit the notes, exhibits 11-16, into evidence.
The trial court initially admitted the notes into evidence over Defendants objection.
The court later changed its mind and admonished the jury, ordering them not
to consider the exhibits in consideration of the case.
When a trial judge admonishes the jury to disregard an event that occurred
at trial, the admonishment is usually an adequate curative measure, and a mistrial
is not necessary.
See Hazzard v. State, 642 N.E.2d 1368, 1370 (Ind.
1994). In reviewing a trial courts determination that an admonition sufficiently cured
any prejudice, this court looks to the likely impact on the verdict.
Here, Terry testified that both Defendant and Fredrick had made incriminating stat
bragging about what they did to Mr. Thomas. Terry then testified regarding
specific conversations with Defendant and Fredrick, referring to his notes made of the
conversation. Terry also testified regarding other specific conversations he had had with
Defendant in which Defendant incriminated himself and Fredrick.
Given Terrys extensive testimony as to Defendants and Fredricks admissions, it is unlikely
that the notes would have had any significant persuasive effect on the jury.
We find that any error in the temporary admission of the exhibits
did not affect Defendants substa
ntial rights and does not require reversal. Ind.
Trial Rule 61.
SHEPARD, C.J., and DICKSON, BOEHM, and RUCKER, JJ., concur.