ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE
Jerry J. McGaughey Jeffrey A. Modisett
Vincennes, Indiana Attorney General of Indiana
Suzann Weber Lupton
Deputy Attorney General
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
DEWAYNE E. PIERCE, ) ) Appellant (Defendant Below ), ) ) v. ) Cause No. 42S00-9706-CR-353 ) STATE OF INDIANA, ) ) Appellee (Plaintiff Below ). )Cause No. 42D01-9512-CF-055
APPEAL FROM THE KNOX SUPERIOR COURT The Honorable Murphy C. Land, Special Judge
SHEPARD, Chief Justice.
A jury found appellant Dewayne Pierce guilty of murder. The trial court sentenced him to sixty-five years. In this direct appeal, Pierce raises two issues:
2. Whether the trial court erred by admitting over
Pierce's hearsay objection three letters written by
the victim over.
Shortly before 6 a.m. on December 6, 1995, Dewayne Pierce
entered the Vincennes Police Department. He appeared upset.
Pierce told police that he had come home from work and found his
girlfriend Dawn Morrison on the floor of the apartment they shared
with "blood coming out of her ears." (R. at 327.) Officers and
emergency personnel were dispatched to Pierce's apartment, where
they found Morrison in a bed covered by blankets.
Morrison had a gunshot wound to her head. A spent bullet was
found on the floor immediately beneath where her head rested.
Holes in the pillow and mattress showed the bullet's linear path to
the floor. Based on the condition of Morrison's body, it appeared
to initial investigators that she had been dead for "some period of
time." (R. at 371.) An autopsy revealed that Morrison died
sometime before 4:30 a.m. on December 6th and that the most
probable time of her death was between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Her
wound indicated that the barrel of the gun was placed in direct
contact with her head at the time she was shot.
On December 7, 1995, the Indiana State Police retrieved a
Lorcin 9mm pistol from Kelly Lake, located in Lawrenceville near
Lewis' home. Pierce had directed the police to the lake and
pointed out the specific area in the lake where the pistol could
be, and was, found. At trial, the pistol was identified by Janet
Peach as the weapon she had sold Pierce less than a month before
the murder. The serial numbers found on the handgun matched those
found on an empty gun box the police took from Pierce's residence.
An expert witness testified that the bullet which killed Dawn
Morrison was fired from this pistol.
Pierce claims the evidence was insufficient to prove the elements of murder.See footnote 1 He argues that the evidence was only
circumstantial and that a reasonable juror could not have found the
elements of murder beyond a reasonable doubt on the basis of this
evidence. He specifically asserts that the facts were insufficient
to show that Pierce killed Morrison knowingly.
On appeal, we do not reweigh the evidence or judge the
credibility of witnesses, and we consider only the evidence most
favorable to the verdict together with all reasonable and logical
inferences to be drawn therefrom.
Nunn v. State, 601 N.E.2d 334
(Ind. 1992). If there is substantial evidence of probative value
to support the conclusion of the trier of fact, we will not disturb
the verdict. Id. (citing Banks v. State, 567 N.E.2d 1126, 1129
(Ind. 1991)). Certainly, a guilty verdict may be based solely upon
circumstantial evidence. Harris v. State, 425 N.E.2d 112 (Ind.
1981). The reviewing court need not determine that circumstantial
evidence is adequate to overcome every reasonable hypothesis of
innocence, but only that an inference may reasonably be drawn which
supports the finding. Smith v. State, 468 N.E.2d 512 (Ind. 1984).
The circumstantial evidence was sufficient to allow a
reasonable jury to infer that Pierce knowingly killed Dawn
As for proof that Pierce killed knowingly, an expert witness
testified that the Lorcin pistol in question could only be fired by
pulling the trigger; thus, other types of mishandling could not
have caused the gun to discharge as Pierce claims. Another expert
noted that the bullet wound suffered by the victim was a contact
wound, a type of injury to the skin which occurs only when the
barrel of the gun is actually touching the skin's surface when
fired. The same expert also testified that the position of the
victim's body and the points where the bullet entered and exited
the victim's head made suicide unlikely.
The State offered three letters which were discovered by
police in Pierce's apartment. The handwriting was authenticated as
that of the victim. Pierce objected on hearsay grounds, but the
We review evidentiary rulings for an abuse of discretion.
Yamobi v. State, 672 N.E.2d 1344 (Ind. 1996). We reverse only when
"the decision is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts
and circumstances." Joyner v. State, 678 N.E.2d 386, 390 (Ind.
1997), reh'g. denied.
Of the three contested letters, two are directed to "Dewayne." The first letter states:
Please start talking to me again, I'm sorry that I didn't come back the outher [sic] night and I know you probably think I was doing stuff I wasn't supposed to be doing but all I did was drank [sic] one beer I didn't smoke anything at all. And I don't cheat on my boyfriends I never have [and] never will so now you know what I did [and] didn't do. If you want me to move out, tell me. Your silence hurts me more than anything.
(R. at 783.) The second letter has been extensively crossed out, but remains legible. It states in part: "If you want me to move out Just tell me! Please talk to me! I'm sorry I didn't come back the outher [sic] night. Please forgive me if that's why your [sic] mad!" (R. at 785.) The third letter is addressed to "Hillary" and states: "Dewayne's not talking to me...I like him alot and I can't get into his mind . . . [to] find out how he feels about things
. . . oh well I'm glad I found someone who will be good to me." (R. at 784.)
For ease of analysis, we take the three letters as hearsay.See footnote
The assertions that Dewayne was "mad" and that he was "not talking"
to Dawn are provable and the inferences to be drawn are
sufficiently related to the matter to be proven--Dewayne was angry
The statements fall within the Rule 803(3) exception, however,
because they show Dawn was apprehensive about her relationship with
Pierce and because they were offered to controvert defense evidence
to the effect that he and the victim were getting along well at the
time of the murder. Pierce's mother testified that on the night of
the murder Dewayne and Dawn were not "fighting or bickering" and
that both appeared to be in a good mood. (R. at 800-01.) A
substantial portion of the defense's closing argument focused on
the lack of conflict between the two. (R. at 836-41.) Under these
circumstances, the victim's anxiety regarding her relationship with
Pierce was admissible and relevant because it showed that the
relationship was not as smooth as represented by the defense. See,
e.g., Lock v. State, 567 N.E.2d 1155, 1159-60 (Ind. 1991) (evidence
showing murder victim and defendant were "having trouble" in their
relationship was relevant since status of the relationship "was one
of the contested issues at trial").
The trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the
Dickson, Sullivan, Selby, and Boehm, JJ., concur.
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