ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE
Kevin McShane Karen M. Freeman-Wilson
Indianapolis, Indiana Attorney General of Indiana
Deputy Attorney General
INDIANA SUPREME COURT
CLAUDE HOSKINS, )
v. ) 49S00-0002-CR-132
STATE OF INDIANA, )
APPEAL FROM THE MARION SUPERIOR COURT
The Honorable Gary L. Miller
Cause No. 49G05-9807-CF-113273
On Direct Appeal
October 30, 2000
The defendant, Claude Hoskins, was convicted of murder
See footnote for the July 10, 1998,
death of Betty Weir. Rejecting the defendant's claims of trial court error
and jury misconduct, we affirm the trial court.
Betty Wier was killed by a single .357 magnum gunshot fired by the
defendant in their home.See footnote He asserted that the shooting was accidental.
The defendant first contends that the trial court erred in refusing his tendered
instruction, which would have advised the jury that an adult who has not
been convicted of a felony may possess or carry a handgun in that
person's home or business without a license.
In support of his tendered instruction, the defendant urged the trial court that
it was needed because the possession of firearms is currently a very controversial
and emotionally-laden issue and that some jurors may incorrectly believe that it was
unlawful for him to possess the handgun in his home. The defendant
argues that this potential, erroneous notion was not allowed to be corrected by
his instruction, and therefore, his substantial rights were prejudiced by the court's action.
To determine whether the trial court erred in refusing to give an instruction,
we consider: (1) whether the tendered instruction correctly states the law; (2)
whether the evidence supports giving the instruction; and (3) whether other instructions already
given cover the substance of the tendered instruction.
Williams v. State, 700
N.E.2d 784, 787-88 (Ind. 1998); Griffin v. State, 644 N.E.2d 561, 562 (Ind.1994).
When evaluating these considerations, we bear in mind that instructing the jury
generally lies within the sole discretion of the trial court. Edgecomb v.
State, 673 N.E.2d 1185, 1196 (Ind. 1996). Appellate reversal is appropriate only
for abuse of discretion. Id. The State acknowledges that the tendered
instruction may have been a correct statement of the law and the substance
of the instruction was not covered by any other instructions, but asserts that
there is no evidence in the record to support giving the instruction.
In reviewing appellate claims alleging improper refusal of tendered instructions, we usually refer
to the second consideration in terms of whether the evidence supports giving the
instruction. However, this same consideration has also been aptly articulated as "[w]hether
there was evidence to render the instruction applicable to the issues." Williams
v. State, 481 N.E.2d 1319, 1322 (Ind. 1985). In the present case,
this latter description provides a helpful basis for our analysis.
The defendant was not charged with the unlawful possession of a handgun.
The legality of his possession of the weapon was not an issue in
this case. The defendant does not contend that the State made any
allegations of unlawful possession at any point during the trial. We understand
that the tendered instruction may have been helpful in light of potential jury
consideration of irrelevant matters, and it likely would not have been error for
the trial court, in the exercise of its discretion, to have given the
instruction. The instruction was not, however, applicable to the issues raised by
the evidence. It was not an abuse of discretion for the trial
court to decline the tendered instruction.
The defendant's second contention is that the trial court erred in denying his
motion to correct errors alleging juror misconduct. The motion was supported by
the affidavit of a co-employee of one of the jurors. The affiant
asserted that, shortly after the shooting occurred, she told a person who later
became a juror that "my girlfriend's brother shot his girlfriend" and that the
juror told her after the trial that, after the trial started, she remembered
reading about the shooting in the newspaper. Record at 119. The
defendant contends that the effect of this information on the juror should be
presumed to be prejudicial and that it deprived him of an impartial tribunal
and a fair trial.
To warrant a new trial upon a claim of juror misconduct, the defendant
must show that the misconduct was gross and probably harmed the defendant.
Carr v. State, 728 N.E.2d 125, 131 (Ind. 2000). This determination is
a matter within the trial court's discretion. Lopez v. State, 527 N.E.2d
1119, 1130 (Ind. 1988).
The facts recited in the affidavit do not demonstrate juror misconduct, nor do
they justify any inference of probable harm. The defendant does not establish
that the juror gave false or misleading answers during voir dire. We
decline to find any abuse of discretion in the trial court's denial of
the defendant's motion to correct errors.
The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
SHEPARD, C.J., and SULLIVAN, BOEHM, and RUCKER, JJ., concur.
Ind. Code § 35-42-1-1.
Evidence was presented that the defendant and Betty Weir, although never
married, had been together seventeen and one-half years prior to her death, and
that they were the parents of three children, aged sixteen, fourteen, and eleven.