ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE:
ROBERT W. HAMMERLE KAREN M. FREEMAN-WILSON
JOSEPH M. CLEARY Attorney General of Indiana
Hammerle Foster Allen & Long-Sharp
Indianapolis, Indiana KOSTAS A. POULAKIDAS Deputy Attorney General
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
CHRISTOPHER LEWIS, )
) Supreme Court Cause Number
v. ) 49S00-9910-CR-611
STATE OF INDIANA, )
APPEAL FROM THE MARION SUPERIOR COURT
CRIMINAL DIVISION, ROOM 4
The Honorable Mark Renner, Judge
Cause No. 49G04-9805-CF-70079
ON DIRECT APPEAL
December 22, 2000
Following a bench trial, nineteen-year-old Christopher Lewis was convicted of murder for the
beating death of his twenty-year-old girlfriend Stacie Harris. In this direct appeal
Lewis raises one issue for our review: is the evidence sufficient to
support his conviction?
We affirm the trial court.
Lewis and Harris met in middle school and dated off and on since
their sophomore year of high school. On the evening of May 1,
1998, Lewis and Harris got into an argument about Harris alleged infidelity.
The facts most favorable to the verdict show that Lewis shoved Harris into
a wall, strangled her, slammed her onto the ground, swung her into furniture
and a wall, and hit and kicked her. After the fight, both
Lewis and Harris fell asleep.
Because Harris was unresponsive the following morning, Lewis and Harris friend took her
to the emergency room. Tests revealed that Harris was clinically brain dead.
After consultation with Harris family, the doctors removed her from the ventilator
on May 3. Harris died minutes later.
After a bench trial, Lewis was convicted of murder and sentenced to
fifty-five years imprisonment. This direct appeal followed. Additional facts are set
forth below where relevant.
Lewis admits that he killed Harris but asserts that the evidence was insufficient
to prove that it was a knowing killing. The standard for reviewing
sufficiency of the evidence claims is well-settled. We do not reweigh the
evidence or judge the credibility of the witnesses. Jackson v. State, 728
N.E.2d 147, 153 (Ind. 2000). We will affirm the trial court if
the probative evidence and reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence could have allowed
a reasonable trier of fact to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable
doubt. Id. The State charged Lewis with murder for the knowing
killing of Harris. Under Indiana Code § 35-41-2-2(b), [a] person engages in
conduct knowingly if, when he engages in the conduct, he is aware of
a high probability that he is doing so. To kill knowingly is
to engage in conduct with an awareness that the conduct has a high
probability of resulting in death. Lyttle v. State, 709 N.E.2d 1, 3
In Anderson v. State, 681 N.E.2d 703 (Ind. 1997), the defendant alleged that
the evidence was insufficient to support the knowing killing of his girlfriends twenty-one-month-old
child on grounds that he only struck the child in the chest to
stop her from crying. The evidence in that case showed that the child
sustained blunt force injuries all over her body, a ruptured diaphragm, and a
torn esophagus and stomach. We found sufficient evidence to support the element
of a knowing killing in part because [f]rom the severity of [the childs]
injuries . . . , there was sufficient evidence from which the jury
could have concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that [the] defendant knowingly killed [the
child] . . . . Id. at 708. See also Owens
v. State, 659 N.E.2d 466, 473 (Ind. 1995) (finding sufficient evidence to support
the element of a knowing killing in part because from the severity of
the beating . . . , the jury could have concluded beyond a
reasonable doubt that [the defendant] knowingly killed [the victim]. . . .).
Here the State introduced extensive evidence of the severity of Harris injuries.
Dr. Dean Hawley, the forensic pathologist who performed Harris autopsy, testified at trial
that Harris body contained blunt force injuries that completely cover[ed] her body from
head to toe, front and back. R. at 314. The blunt
force impacts to Harris head caused her brain to swell and herniate through
the base of her skull, resulting in brain death. R. at 314.
Dr. Hawley testified that he could not pinpoint what specific head injury
caused Harris brain death because [t]here are so many impacts of the head,
I dont know what to associate with the brain damage. R. at
343. Harris also sustained blunt force injuries to her neck that included
the pattern of a ligature that had been wrapped around her neck and
small bruises resembling fingernail marks. R. at 314. There were internal
injuries to Harris larynx, indicating manual and ligature strangulation. R. at 314.
Harris also had bruises on her body that were [t]oo many to
count, including bruises in the shape of finger marks and shoeprints. R.
at 314, 334, 346-47. When asked if he could tally up the
various injuries to Harris, Dr. Hawley responded, I cant. Theyre just everywhere.
R. at 333. Dr. Hawley concluded that Harris died of [m]ultiple
blunt force injuries and manual and ligature strangulation. R. at 304.
Dr. Kristi George, the neurologist who treated Harris, testified at trial that the
entire left hemisphere and front portion of the right hemisphere of Harris brain
were completely destroyed. R. at 253-54. Dr. George also testified that
there was blood in Harris eyes, urine, and brain. R. at 253,
254, 257. Dr. George concluded that Harris died of blunt force trauma
and lack of oxygen, most likely from strangulation. R. at 258-269, 298.
From the severity of Harris injuries, there was sufficient evidence from which the
trier of fact could have concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that Lewis knowingly
We affirm the trial court.
SHEPARD, C.J., and DICKSON, SULLIVAN and BOEHM, JJ., concur.