Jeffrey A. Modisett
Suzann Weber Lupton
Cambridge City, Indiana Attorneys for Appellee
Attorney General of Indiana
Deputy Attorney General
Jeffrey A. Modisett
Suzann Weber Lupton
JOSEPH C. MONEGAN,
Appellant (Defendant below),
STATE OF INDIANA,
Appellee (Plaintiff below).
) Supreme Court No.
we vacate Monegan's sentence of life without parole and remand for re-sentencing to a term
of years. This is because the sole aggravating circumstance that supported the sentence
_ that Monegan committed another murder _ cannot be constitutionally applied where, as
here, the defendant has not been convicted of the other murder.
This Court has jurisdiction over this direct appeal because the sentence exceeds 50
years. Ind. Const. art. VII; § 4; Ind. Appellate Rule 4(A)(7).
At trial, Defendant asserted the affirmative defense of accident. The trial court permitted the State to rebut this defense with evidence that Defendant had previously killed two other persons pursuant to the intent or absence of mistake or accident exceptions of Ind. Evidence Rule 404(b) . On October 17, 1996, a jury found Defendant guilty of Murder. See footnote 1
The next day, the same jury recommended a sentence of life imprisonment without parole.
The trial court agreed with the jury'
s recommendation and sentenced Defendant to life
imprisonment without parole. Defendant appeals his conviction and sentence.
Additional facts will be provided as needed.
shot and killed in his home in Atlanta, Georgia. Gipson, Harris'
s common law wife,
witnessed the killing. Gipson further testified that Defendant demanded money from her
and Harris for the purpose of purchasing cocaine but neither had any money. Defendant,
armed with a handgun, pressed the gun against Gipson'
s neck and threatened to kill Gipson
if Harris did not produce the money.
In attempting to save Gipson'
s life, Harris tried to grab
Defendant but instead tripped and fell to the ground. Defendant then shot Harris, smiled,
and walked away.
's daughter, Cynthia Gipson, and Cynthia'
s companion, Chad Carswell, heard
the shot from a nearby room. Cynthia testified that she ran to where she heard the gunshot
and saw Defendant exiting the room. As Defendant was leaving the room, he told Cynthia
that he did not mean to shoot Harris, her step-father. Shortly after Defendant fled from the
scene, Harris died from the gunshot wound.See footnote
Detective Walter Mortlock investigated the Atlanta shooting. He testified that Barbara Gipson identified Defendant in a photo array as the perpetrator who killed her husband. Although Defendant was never formally charged for the murder of Harris, the State of Georgia had an outstanding warrant for his arrest.
On appeal, Defendant also argues that the uncharged killing of Harris
and the killing
of Deloney are too unrelated and remote in time to be admissible under the
absent mistake or accident
exceptions of Evid. R.
Indiana Evidence Rule 404(b) provides, Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident . . . . 'The well established rationale behind Evidence Rule 404(b) is that the jury is precluded
from making the
that the defendant had a criminal propensity and
therefore engaged in the charged conduct.'
Charlton v. State
, 702 N.E.2d 1045, 1050 (Ind.
Thompson v. State
, 690 N.E.2d 224, 233 (Ind. 1997))
, 690 N.E.2d 215, 218-19
When a defendant objects to the admission of
evidence on the grounds that it violates Evid. R. 404(b), we: (1) determine whether the
evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is relevant to a matter at issue other than the
defendant's propensity to commit the charged act; and (2) balance the probative value of the
evidence against its prejudicial effect pursuant to Evid. R. 403.
, 690 N.E.2d at 221
We review the relevance and balancing issues for an abuse of discretion. See
690 N.E.2d at 233.
Evid. R. 404(b) does not authorize the general use of prior conduct evidence as proof of the general or specific intent element in criminal offenses. See Wickizer v. State , 626 N.E.2d 795, 799 (Ind. 1993). However, the intent exception contemplated in Evid. R. 404(b) may be available when a defendant goes beyond merely denying the charged culpability and affirmatively presents a claim of particularly contrary intent in opening argument, by cross-examination of State' s witnesses, or by defendant' s case-in-chief
. In some circumstances, the State may be allowed to respond by offering
evidence of prior crimes, wrongs, or acts to the extent genuinely relevant to prove the
s intent at the time of the charged offense.
But, as we previously held, the
exception of Evid. R. 404(b) is narrowly construed.
In this case, Defendant affirmatively asserted in opening argument that he accidentally shot Deloney, putting at issue the intent element of the homicide offense. Intent and knowledge are elements which the State must establish to prove Murder under Ind. Code § 35-42-1-1 (1993).See footnote 5 As such, extrinsic evidence that Defendant intentionally killed another person but then later claimed it was an accident was relevant to Defendant' s claim that the Deloney murder was also an accident. That is, the evidence that Defendant had previously intentionally killed another but claimed that it was an accident has a tendency to make the credibility of his claim of accident in this case less probable than it would be without the evidence. See Evid. R. 401. This meets the test of relevance required by Hicks and comports with similar holdings in this and other jurisdictions. See McEwen v. State, 695 N.E.2d 79, 88 (Ind. 1998) (finding that a defendant's prior assaults on his girlfriend were relevant to assessing the defendant's claim that he accidentally stabbed and killed his girlfriend); Clemens v. State, 610 N.E.2d 236, 242 (Ind. 1993) (holding that
evidence that a father abused one child was properly admitted
to rebut his claim that
accidental injuries caused another child's death
pursuant to Evid. R. 404(b) absence of
mistake or accident
), reh'g denied; Davidson v. State, 558 N.E.2d 1077, 1083-84 (Ind. 1990)
(declaring that the defendant's previously uncharged killing of her first child to secure
insurance proceeds was relevant to rebut her claim of accident regarding a similar killing of
her second child);
State v. Stager, 406 S.E.2d 876, 892 (N.C. 1991) (holding that where
defendant was on trial for the murder of her second husband claiming accidental shooting,
the trial court did not erroneously admit evidence of the defendant's prior killing of her first
husband ten years earlier in which she also claimed accidental shooting);
State v. Johns,
725 P.2d 312, 326 (Or. 1986) (ruling that where a defendant was on trial for shooting and
killing his current wife,
evidence that defendant attempted to kill his former wife six years
earlier was properly admitted to rebut the defendant's defense of accident or mistake)
Accordingly, we find that the extrinsic evidence of
the Atlanta murder was relevant as to
whether Defendant had the requisite intent to commit the killing in the present case.
In balancing the probative value of the evidence against its prejudicial effect, we observe that both the State and Defendant repeatedly informed the jury throughout the trial that the Atlanta murder and the charged murder in this case were not connected in any way. For instance, when conducting voir dire, the State expressly stated that it intended to offer such evidence to rebut Defendant' s defense that he accidentally or mistakenly shot Deloney.
Further, during the State's case-in-chief, the court similarly cautioned the jury to consider
the evidence of the Atlanta murder only on the issue of intent. The court's final instructions
to the jury expressly stated that evidence of wrongful conduct or other bad acts other than
the charged murder was introduced solely on the issue of Defendant's intent, absence of
mistake or absence of accident. (R. at 261.) We believe that these safeguards were
sufficient to prevent the jury from drawing the forbidden inference that the prior wrongful
conduct suggests present guilt, Barker v. State, 695 N.E.2d 925, 930 (Ind. 1998), and more
generally, that the prejudicial effect of the evidence did not outweigh its probative value.
We find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting extrinsic
evidence of a prior a murder under the
exception of Evid. R. 404(b).
Chicago story that has a tendency to make Defendant's claim of accident less probable that
it would be without the evidence.
See Evid. R. 401.
Nor do we find anything else about it
to have any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the
outcome of this case more probable or less probable that it would be without the evidence.
See id. And we believe that to the extent there was any probative value to the story, the
prejudicial effect of its references to gang activity and the shooting of a little girl outweighed
that probative value.
But not all trial errors provide grounds for reversal. Error in the admission of
evidence is no ground for setting aside a conviction unless such erroneous admission
appears inconsistent with substantial justice or affects the substantial rights of the parties.
See Ind. Trial Rule 61; Fleener v. State, 656 N.E.2d 1140, 1142 (Ind. 1995).
In the present case, we find that the error in admitting this extrinsic evidence was harmless. First, the State presented substantial independent proof that Defendant intentionally killed Deloney: (1) Dr. John E. Pless, a forensic pathologist who examined Deloney's body, testified that the gun used to kill Deloney was pushed firmly into his stomach. (2) James York testified that, seconds after he heard a gunshot that killed
Deloney, he overheard a male voice declare, I told you not to fuck with me, mother
fucker. There was substantial evidence that the declarant was the Defendant. (3) Cynthia
Gipson testified that Defendant had intentionally killed another man in Atlanta while
claiming it to be an accident.
Second, as noted earlier, the final instructions to the jury stated that evidence of
wrongful conduct or other bad acts other than the charged murder was introduced solely on
the issue of Defendant's intent, absence of mistake, or absence of accident.
And third, the
State did not overemphasize the limited testimony regarding the Chicago shooting. Under
these circumstances, the erroneous admission of Gipson's comment about the Chicago
shooting is not grounds for setting aside Defendant's conviction.
there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, the result of the proceeding
would have been different. See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984); Bufkin v.
State, 700 N.E.2d 1147, 1150 (Ind. 1998). There is a strong presumption that counsel has
rendered adequate assistance and made all significant decisions in the exercise of reasonable
professional judgment. See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690.
1988) (considering all other steps taken to effectively represent the defendant, the defense
counsel's tactical decision not to file motions in limine or motions to suppress did not
constitute ineffective assistance of counsel). Defense counsel filed several other motions in
limine: (1) to suppress an incriminating statement overheard by a State's witness, James
York; (2) to exclude evidence linking Defendant to a Chicago drive-by shooting; and (3) to
prohibit the admission of evidence relating to a stolen handgun that Defendant used to kill
Deloney. Again, Defendant has not demonstrated that counsel's performance was
In State v. Moore, we said that although egregious errors may be grounds for reversal, we do not second-guess strategic decisions requiring reasonable professional judgment even if the strategy or tactic, in hindsight, did not best serve the defendant's interests. 678 N.E.2d at 1261; see also Hunter v. State, 578 N.E.2d 353, 356 (Ind. 1991). Counsel is afforded considerable discretion in choosing strategy and tactics, and we will
accord that decision deference. Conner v. State, 711 N.E.2d 1238, 1248 (Ind. 1999); see
also Potter v. State, 684 N.E.2d 1127, 1133 (Ind. 1997) (declaring that the reviewing court
grants the trial attorney significant deference in choosing strategy, which at the time, he or
she deems best under the circumstances). Strategic decisions do not constitute ineffective
assistance of counsel. See id.; Smith v. State, 689 N.E.2d 1238, 1244 (Ind. 1997).
At trial, after the questioning of Officer French as well as other officers, the trial
court and counsel engaged in the following discussion outside the presence of the jury:
The Court: . . . . I've excused the jury . . . because things are going so smoothly with so few objections . . . .[T]here has been some evidence that's been admitted to which an objection could have been made but that decision has been, the decision not to object has been a conscious decision of defense attorney as a matter of strategy, is that correct?
[Defense Counsel]: That's correct.
The Court: All right, and basically as I understand it and I'm not asking you to divulge your entire strategy . . . but essentially, you're relying on a defense that this was an accidental and unintentional circumstance as opposed to one in which the result was intended?
[Defense Counsel]: Yes. Sir . . . .
The Court: Very well, so it's not a circumstance where persons are ignoring potential objections[,] but rather as frequently happens[,] you have to decide whether you want to take some advantage by evidence going in and also in the process possibly some harm by other evidence coming in of the same nature. Is that a fair statement?
On the witness stand, Defendant testified that the only reason he asked the
incriminating question, How much time do you think I'm going to get?, was in direct
response to an authority figure informing him that he would get a lot of time. (R. at
1039.) This testimony portrayed Defendant as a confused, frightened young man. On cross-
examination, Defendant testified that he had fainted in the police car because he was in
shock and couldn't believe what was happening. (R. at 1040.) This testimony portrayed
Defendant as being distraught over losing a friend.
Defense counsel would not have been able to use Defendant's testimony as to what
occurred in the police car without allowing Officer French's testimony. While this may not
have been the best strategy, we cannot say that it was unreasonable. Defense counsel's
tactical decision not to object to Officer French's testimony regarding Defendant's statement
did not rise to the level of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Defendant. Defendant argues that the mug shot from his prior arrest had no probative
value and [its] admission [into evidence] . . . creat[ed] prejudice.See footnote
Appellant's Br. at 45.
Generally, this Court has disapproved of the use of mug shots out of concern that jurors
may infer criminal history from the photographs. See Beadin v. State, 533 N.E.2d 144, 146
(Ind. 1989) (citing Graves v. State, 496 N.E.2d 383 (Ind. 1986)). Here, however, the mug
shot was not introduced to show Defendant's prior act of crime.
The State called to the stand Detective Mortlock who testified that he had obtained the mug shot of Defendant from the Atlanta police. The police took the photograph after Defendant committed a crime not connected with the murder of Robert Harris in Atlanta. Detective Mortlock explained that he used this photograph to help him establish the Defendant's whereabouts after the Harris murder and that he used it in a photo array for Barbara Gipson and others to identify Defendant as the person who had killed Harris. Apparently, Barbara Gipson only knew Defendant as Slim Jim or Ron, that is, she did not know Defendant's real name, Joseph C. Monegan. Thus, the mug shot was relevant and necessary to explain the eventual identification of Defendant as Harris's killer. See Byers v. State, 709 N.E.2d 1024, 1027 (Ind. 1999) (Mug shot from a prior unrelated arrest was necessary to establish the identity of the defendant as the killer.), reh'g denied ;
Harrison v. State, 707 N.E.2d 767, 778 (Ind. 1999)
(holding that the admission of a mug
shot from the prior crime raised no substantial issue of prejudice where a detective's
reference to the mug shot was used to describe a photo array), reh'g denied
. Because the
mug shot was admissible for this purpose, an objection to its use would have been overruled.
As such, the failure to object did not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel.
statement. York admitted that he was not acquainted with Defendant.
On October 14, 1996, Defendant filed a motion in limine requesting that the
testimony of James York be excluded. The trial court denied the motion in limine on
grounds that the statement
was admissible under the Evid. R. 803(2) excited utterance
and Evid. R. 803(4) declarant's then existing state of mind.See footnote
Counsel did not
renew his objection to the admission of the statement during the direct examination of York.
Appellant's Br. at 48.
Defendant contends that the statement should not have been admitted under Evid. R. 803(2) because York did not see Defendant utter the incriminating words. We agree with Defendant that the statement in question was not an excited utterance. But we find that the statement was not hearsay at all because it was not offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. The statement was not offered as circumstantial evidence to prove that Deloney had been fuck[ing] with Defendant or that Defendant told Deloney not to do that. Rather,
it was offered to prove that the shooting was intentional, not accidental.
Because York's testimony was not hearsay, an objection to its use at trial would have been overruled. As such, the failure to object did not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel.
We are inclined to agree that these comments exceeded the bounds of zealous advocacy and that Defendant would have been entitled to an admonishment had he sought one. But we are also of the view that as a tactical matter, counsel could well have decided
to let these brief references pass. In such circumstances, we cannot conclude that Defendant
received ineffective assistance of counsel.See footnote
Defendant contends that the right to maintain post-arrest silence implicitly found in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), was violated when during the State's case-in- chief, the deputy prosecutor questioned an officer about Defendant's post-arrest, post- Miranda silence. Defendant maintains that reversal of his conviction is required because the officer's statements were highly prejudicial to Defendant, and the prosecutor engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by conducting such questioning.
In the present case, Officer Brown read Defendant his Miranda rights at the crime
scene. Officer French also read Defendant his Miranda rights after taking him into custody.
On direct examination, Officer French offered the following testimony (deputy prosecutor
Did [Defendant] ever ask you how Tyrone Deloney was?
A: No, he did not.
(R. at 616.)
Following his conversation with his mother, did [Defendant] give you
A: No he did not.
Q: What did he say?
A: He told me he wanted to exercise his right to have an attorney.
Q: He never told you this was a mistake, did he?
A: No, he didn't.
Q: He wouldn't tell you anything, would he?
Q: He wanted to see an attorney.
[Defense Counsel]: Was there ever a time when you were present
with Miss Truitt[See footnote
] when [Defendant] would have
been present too?
[Officer French]: Yes.
[Defense Counsel]: Did you ever hear [Defendant] ask Miss Truitt if Tyrone [Deloney] was okay?
[Officer French]: No.
(R. at 623-24.)
Defense counsel's line of questioning was mirrored by that of the deputy prosecutor
who, moments later, inquired:
[Deputy prosecutor]: Officer French, while in your presence did
[Defendant] ever ask how Tyrone Deloney was?
[Officer French]: No, he did not.
(R. at 624.)
The State did not refer to the officer's statements in its opening statement or throughout the trial other than briefly in closing argument. Defense counsel did not request the trial court to admonish the jury to disregard the disputed questioning.
Given the limited nature of Officer French's testimony on Defendant's post-arrest,
post-Miranda silence, defense counsel's decision not to object to the statements, defense
counsel's own questioning on Defendant's post-Miranda silence, and the fact that the State
did not refer to the officer's statement in opening argument,See footnote
we find no prosecutorial
misconduct and further find that any error resulting from Officer French's testimony was
harmless. In determining that the questioning regarding Defendant's post-Miranda silence
was harmless error, we necessarily find no fundamental error.
Defendant also contends that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel to which he was entitled when defense counsel failed to object to the questioning of Officer
French's testimony on Defendant's post-arrest, post-Miranda silence. In finding Officer
French's testimony to constitute harmless error, we cannot conclude that defense counsel's
failure to object constituted deficient performance.
dismiss. Id. Defendant correctly cites State v. McCormick, 272 Ind. 272, 397 N.E.2d 276
(1979), for the proposition that the (b)(8) aggravator cannot be constitutionally employed
where the defendant has not been convicted of the prior murder. Id. at 278-80
, 397 N.E.2d
The State argues that McCormick is distinguishable from this case. McCormick was
an interlocutory appeal in a case in which the State sought the death penalty based on the
(b)(8) aggravator. The prior murder had not been reduced to conviction and the State agreed
that any evidence of it would not be admissible during the guilt phase of the trial. This
Court held that it would be unconstitutional, in essence, to try the defendant for the prior
murder at the sentencing phase. Id.
at 278, 397 N.E.2d at 280. The defendant, we said,
would be tried on the second count to a jury which has been undeniably
prejudiced by having convicted him of an unrelated murder. As the trial court
pointed out in its ruling:
Subsection (b)(8) allows the State to secure a conviction on a strong murder case, then seek the death penalty by proving a weak case before a jury which is undeniably prejudiced. This opens the door to death penalty recommendations upon a level of proof lower than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
We concluded our opinion in McCormick by saying that our holding is confined to those cases in which the murder alleged as an aggravating circumstance is not related to the principal murder charge. Id. at 280, 397 N.E.2d at 281. The State argues that because the
Atlanta killing was related to the principal murder charge here, McCormick does not control.
In so arguing, the State reads related to mean admissible as evidence in the guilt phase.
While this is a plausible reading of McCormick standing alone, subsequent cases make clear
that the (b)(8) aggravator is only available _ that is, the prior murder is only related _
in cases in which the defendant is tried in the same proceeding for the all of the murders
identified in the (b)(8) aggravating circumstance charge. See Wrinkles v. State, 690 N.E.2d
1156, 1169 n.24 (Ind. 1997) ([T]his aggravator is available only in cases in which the
defendant is tried in the same proceeding for the multiple murders alleged in the aggravating
circumstances.) (emphasis added in original), cert. denied, 119 S. Ct. 148 (1998); Williams
v. State, 669 N.E.2d 1372, 1389 (Ind. 1996) ([T]his multiple murder aggravating
circumstance is applicable only in cases in which the defendant is tried in the same
proceeding for the multiple murders alleged in the aggravating circumstance. The
aggravating circumstance of commission of another murder not reduced to conviction is
unconstitutional as applied when the other murder is unrelated to the instant murder.), cert.
denied, 520 U.S. 1232 (1997); Hough v. State, 560 N.E.2d 511, 518 (Ind. 1990)
([C]harging as an aggravating circumstance a separate and unrelated murder where a
defendant ha[s] not been convicted of that murder violate[s] due process.), cert. denied,
119 S. Ct. 550 (1998); Davis v. State, 477 N.E.2d 889, 893 (Ind.) (Subpart (b)(8) is
considered in cases involving double or multiple murders for which the defendant is being
tried in one proceeding.), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1014 (1985).
The infirmity found in the (b)(8) aggravator in McCormick was the basic
unfairness of requiring the accused in a capital murder trial charging the
killing of A to also defend against a charge of murder in the killing of B at
some other time and place. The burden of marshalling witnesses and evidence
for such a composite trial before the same jury would be simply staggering
and the result of such a trial would be unreliable.
640 N.E.2d 1031, 1044 (Ind. 1994) , cert. denied, 516 U.S. 992 (1995).
In the present case, the Atlanta killing had not been reduced to conviction. Consistent with McCormick, we hold Defendant was denied due process when the trial court employed the (b)(8) aggravator. Accordingly, we remand this case to the trial court for re-sentencing to a term of years under Ind. Code §§ 35-38-1-7.1 (Supp. 1995) and 35-50-
2-3(a) (Supp. 1995; P.L. 2-1995).See footnote
determined the evidence admissible under Evid. R. 404(b) absent mistake or accident, and denied the motion. Defendant then made a standing objection to the admission of the alleged Chicago shooting.
[Deputy prosecutor]: What were the first words, if any, out of [Defendant's]
[Officer French]: At one point he'd asked me . . . what type of time am I looking at for something like this.
(R. at 615-16.)
[Deputy prosecutor]: [Defendant] was certainly free to talk to you though, wasn't
[Officer French]: Yes.
[Deputy prosecutor]: And it didn't stop him from asking you what time he was looking at, or anything like that? I mean that [Miranda] warning that warning that Mr. Brown gave him he still asked that question right off the bat, didn't he?
[Officer French]: Yes, shortly after we left North H.
(R. at 628.)