ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE
S. Sargent Visher Jeffrey A. Modisett
Indianapolis, Indiana Attorney General of Indiana
Arthur Thaddeus Perry
Deputy Attorney General
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
JOSEPH T. GARNER, ) ) Appellant (Defendant Below ), ) ) v. ) Cause No. 49S00-9709-CR-502 ) STATE OF INDIANA, ) ) Appellee (Plaintiff Below ). )Cause No. 49G01-9512-CF-195507
APPEAL FROM THE MARION SUPERIOR COURT The Honorable Tanya Walton-Pratt, Judge
SHEPARD, Chief Justice.
A jury found appellant Joseph Garner guilty of murder and the
trial court sentenced him to serve sixty-five years in prison, with
three years suspended to probation.
At 3 a.m. the next morning, Joseph went to Amanda's house to ask if he could stay with her but Amanda declined. When Amanda asked if Paul was all right, Joseph responded "Okay? What's okay? No, he's not okay. Did you know that he was married four times and he sodomized me as a child?" (R. at 549.) Joseph proceeded to explain to Amanda that his alter ego, Greg, had sucked the spirit out of China, and that his father was angry and was picking on him.
Paul then called and asked Amanda to send Joseph home. Joseph left
Amanda's residence claiming that he was going to erase his own
"name from the book of life." (R. at 554-55.) Later that morning,
Amanda tried twice to call to warn Paul of Joseph's odd behavior
but there was no answer. Then she heard a knock at her door and
found her Christmas wreath thrown to the floor. At 9:30 a.m.,
Amanda learned that Paul was dead.
At 8 a.m. that same morning, Joseph arrived at the door of
Pastor Mike Abbot, barefoot, wrapped in a blanket, and asking for
help "in the name of Jesus Christ." (R. at 603-06.) Abbot drove
Joseph to the police station. On the way there, Joseph explained
that he had killed a man. Joseph's hands were lacerated and
bloody. Without prompting, Joseph told an officer that he killed
his father. The officer advised Joseph of his Miranda rights, and
Joseph then revealed the location of the body. He also gave a
statement describing the killing in detail. A pathologist
determined that Paul had been beaten, cut, and stabbed with a knife
and a dowel rod. Part of the body was skinned post mortem. A
portion of a dowel rod was found in Paul's head, and some brain
tissue was found outside the body.
Both of the court-appointed psychiatrists testified that Joseph was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of the murder when he committed it. The State's expert agreed. In rebuttal, the State offered the deposition of Joseph's ex-wife, which was
admitted over defense counsel's remoteness, hearsay, and privilege
objections, and which recounted incidents of domestic violence and
alcohol abuse. Next, the mother of Joseph's son testified that
Joseph said the way to keep social security disability benefits is
to "know the right answers, act crazy." (R. at 1218, 1231.)
Finally, the State presented letters to relatives written by Joseph
while he was in jail awaiting trial. In the letters, Joseph
expressed guilt and remorse, and he claimed temporary insanity.
Indiana places the burden of proof on the defendant to establish the defense of insanity by a preponderance of the evidence. Ind. Code Ann. § 35-41-4-1(b) (West 1998). Furthermore, in order to prevail on appeal, "[a] convicted defendant who claims his insanity defense should have prevailed at trial is in the
position of one appealing from a negative judgement. We will
reverse only when the evidence is without conflict and leads to but
one conclusion which the trier of fact did not reach." Rogers v.
State, 514 N.E.2d 1259, 1260 (Ind. 1987).
The trial court correctly denied Garner's motion. First,
although Garner offered evidence of mental illness, the State has
no obligation to offer evidence which disproves mental illness in
order to meet its burden of proving Garner guilty beyond a
reasonable doubt. Cate v. State, 644 N.E.2d 546, 548 (Ind. 1994).
To require the State to disprove mental illness would shift the
burden of proof of insanity, controverting the General Assembly's
placement of that burden on the defendant. Ind. Code Ann. § 35-41-
4-1(b) (West 1998).
Second, the trial court did not err in denying Garner's motion
because sufficient probative evidence suggested that the defendant
was not insane at the time of the murder. The determination of
insanity is a question for the trier of fact, who may elect to
credit the testimony of lay witnesses over that of medical experts.
Gambill v. State, 675 N.E.2d 668 (Ind. 1996). In Gambill, this
Court upheld a verdict finding no mental illness when four medical
experts testified that the appellant was legally insane and two lay
witnesses testified otherwise. Id. Similarly in this case,
despite the testimony of the medical professionals, the jury could
The State offered evidence showing that Garner was not insane
at the time of the crime. First, the State presented evidence that
Garner remembered the alleged childhood sexual abuse well before
the murder, rather than directly before the act as Garner alleges.
This evidence included a statement Garner made to Amanda that his
father had sodomized him as a child and a statement Garner made to
Doris McMoningle, who later testified, discussing his previous
childhood sexual abuse. Second, the State introduced evidence of
prior physical altercations between Garner and his father which
demonstrated a hostile relationship. Third, one of the
psychiatrists testified on cross-examination that during the
assault which led to the murder, Garner's father asked him to leave
and he did for a brief time, suggesting that Garner could tell
right from wrong. The jury was free to rely on any one of these
pieces of evidence and disregard the testimony of the expert
witnesses. Gambill, 675 N.E.2d 668; see also Dean v. State, 551
N.E.2d 452, 454 (Ind. 1990) (jury may credit lay testimony over
that of expert witnesses).
Despite the fact that Garner presented ample evidence of his insanity, the court was within its discretion to deny Garner's motion because the jury had sufficient evidence to reject Garner's claim.
Garner objected at trial and now challenges on appeal the
admission of (1) a deposition by his ex-wife concerning prior
domestic and alcohol abuse; (2) testimony by his son's mother that
he feigned "craziness" to keep social security benefits, and (3)
letters to family members written while he was in jail awaiting
trial, expressing guilt and claiming insanity. His objections
include remoteness in time, hearsay, character propensity, undue
prejudice, and relevance.
When the defense of insanity is raised, evidence which may
otherwise be inadmissable may be admitted. Gregory v. State, 540
N.E.2d 585, 591 (Ind. 1989). "Once a defendant offers an insanity
plea, all [relevant] evidence is deemed admissible. Even evidence
which is otherwise incompetent or immaterial may be admitted to
show the mental state of the defendant." Id. (quoting Wood v.
State, 512 N.E.2d 1094, 1098 (Ind. 1987)). Evidence need only be
relevant to the claim of insanity to be admissible. Anderson v.
State, 615 N.E.2d 91 (Ind. 1993).
Relevant evidence is evidence having any tendency to make a fact of consequence more or less probable. Ind.Evidence Rule 401. That Garner's previous relationship with his wife was marked with
violence strengthens the State's proposition that the rage towards
his father is less attributable to insanity. Allegations of faking
"craziness" to claim benefits may establish a pattern that Garner
feigns mental illness, thereby raising doubt about the sincerity of
his insanity claim. The letters Garner wrote from jail discuss the
onset of his alleged insanity and are therefore relevant to that
issue. Because the evidence Garner contests does make his claim of
insanity more or less probable, that evidence is relevant and was
therefore properly admitted.
III. The Sixty-Five Year Sentence
The presumptive sentence for the crime of murder is fifty-five years, and it is within the discretion of the trial court to either add or subtract ten years for aggravating and mitigating circumstances. Ind. Code Ann. § 35-50-2-3(a) (West 1998); Morgan v. State, 675 N.E.2d 1067, 1073 (Ind. 1996). In this case the trial court found the following aggravating circumstances: the risk Garner will commit another violent crime, Garner's history of delinquent activity, Garner's need of correctional or
rehabilitative treatment that can best be provided in prison,
Garner's danger to society, and the advanced age of the victim.
The court found Garner's mental illness as a mitigating factor and
concluded that the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating
factors. Accordingly, it added ten years to the presumptive
sentence with three years to be served on probation in an in-
patient mental treatment facility.
This Court has the authority to review and revise criminal
sentences. Ind. Const. art VII, § 4. We exercise that authority
under the restraint of Indiana Appellate Rule 17, which declares
that revision should occur only when the sentence is "manifestly
unreasonable" in light of the nature of the offense and the
character of the offender. The trial court is not required to
accept Garner's formulations of what constitutes mitigating
circumstances. Ross v. State, 676 N.E.2d 339, 347 (Ind. 1996). It
is apparent from the record that the trial court considered
Garner's mental illness. In light of the multiple aggravating
factors, we conclude that it was not manifestly unreasonable to add
ten years to the presumptive sentence.
Dickson and Boehm, JJ., concur.
Sullivan, J., with whom Selby, J., joins, concurs except as to part three, from which he dissents believing that a sentence of this magnitude was not justified given the jury's unanimous finding that the defendant was mentally ill.
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