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Griffin v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

September 11, 2014

LEE TRAVIS GRIFFIN, Appellant-Defendant,
STATE OF INDIANA, Appellee-Plaintiff

APPEAL FROM THE ST. JOSEPH SUPERIOR COURT. The Honorable Elizabeth C. Hurley, Judge. Cause No. 71D08-1301-MR-1.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, Attorney General of Indiana, MICHAEL GENE WORDEN, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

NAJAM, Judge. BAILEY, J., and PYLE, J., concur.

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NAJAM, Judge


Lee Travis Griffin appeals his convictions for robbery, as a Class A felony; burglary, as a Class A felony; and felony murder, following a jury trial. Griffin presents three issues for review:

1. Whether the State presented sufficient evidence to support his conviction for robbery.
2. Whether the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the State to present autopsy photographs.
3. Whether the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to give a proffered jury instruction.

We affirm.


On the night of December 27, 2012, Tyler Jordan, Autumn Jordan, and Christine Jordan gathered at the home of Kent and Sandra Price (" the home" ), who are relatives of the Jordans. Also present at the home was Kent's daughter, Klarisa, and a few of her friends.

At approximately 9:30 p.m., Tyler made his way from the home's second-floor bedroom to the home's first floor kitchen, located at the rear of the home. While there, Tyler heard a knock on the back door, which entered into the kitchen. When Tyler pulled back the door's curtains to see outside, Walter Neely forced open the door and entered the home. Neely grabbed a knife from the kitchen butcher block and cut Tyler's hands before pushing him to the floor. Four other men, including Griffin, then entered the home wearing ski or surgical masks.[1]

After the men entered, one of the men climbed on top of Tyler, placed his hand over Tyler's mouth, and instructed him " to shut up, to be quiet." Tr. at 126 (Sept. 10-11, 2013) (hereinafter " Sept. 10 Tr." ).[2] While some of the other men went upstairs, this man, armed with a revolver, took Tyler to the basement. Tyler blacked out for a time soon thereafter and, while he could not specifically recall, he subsequently reported that he believed his attacker had knocked him unconscious.

When Tyler regained consciousness, he " didn't look up" but heard the man searching the basement. Id. at 128. The man noticed that Tyler was awake and asked Tyler whether he or his uncle knew the codes to the Prices' safes. The man then went upstairs, but, before doing so, he pointed his gun at Tyler, cocked it, and commanded him, " [D]on't move or I'll kill you." Id. Tyler could hear screaming and stomping emanating from the home's upper levels.

Thereafter, at least two men--Neely and the man with the gun--" busted through the door" to a second-floor bedroom where everyone but Klarisa and her friends had gathered. Id. at 167. The two men stormed into the room. Kent was knocked down, and Christine, who jumped onto Neely, was " slung" to the ground. Id. Neely swung at both Kent and Christine with the knife. The second man pointed the gun at Christine, threatened her life, and ordered her to the bathroom. He also threatened to kill Sandra.

The men demanded money, jewelry, guns, and the home's safes, and they ransacked

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the bedroom. Meanwhile, a third intruder, also armed with a knife, made his way to the third-floor bedroom where Klarisa and her friends were located. The man searched the room for valuables, taking several items, but did not locate Klarisa or her friends, who hid when they heard the commotion below.

At some point, Klarisa and her friends were able to call 9-1-1. Christine had also managed to call 9-1-1. Officers with the South Bend Police Department responded to the calls and surrounded the home. As the intruders attempted to flee the home, the police apprehended them. Griffin was among those apprehended, and he was still inside the house when the police ordered him out. Griffin, accompanied by another intruder, exited through the home's rear entrance. When officers arrested him, Griffin wore black clothes and a surgical mask but was unarmed.

When the officers entered the home, they discovered Kent and Sandra had sustained serious injuries from knife wounds from Neely's attack. Sandra subsequently died from her injuries, which included a wound to her neck. The officers also found several items of property collected at the rear door of ...

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