Alexander K. Jerden, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Petitioner
As Corrected June 22, 2015.
Appeal from the Brown Circuit Court. Lower Court Cause No. 07C01-1405-CM-162. The Honorable Frank M. Nardi, Judge Pro Tempore.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: Kurt A. Young, Nashville, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana; Katherine Modesitt Cooper, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Pyle, Judge. Crone, J., and Brown, J., concur.
Statement of the Case
[¶1] Appellant/Defendant, Alexander K. Jerden (" Jerden" ), appeals his convictions for two counts of Class B misdemeanor reckless driving. On appeal, he argues that several of the prosecutor's statements during closing argument constituted misconduct because they inflamed the passions and prejudices of the jury and encouraged the jury to convict him for reasons other than his guilt. He also argues that the trial court erred in notifying the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (" BMV" ) that he received guilty verdicts for all four of his charges, when two of the verdicts merged, and the trial court entered judgments of conviction for only two of his charges. We conclude that, regardless of whether the prosecutor committed misconduct, Jerden did not object to the closing argument, and the prosecutor's statements did not amount to fundamental error. However, we find that the trial court erred in notifying the BMV of all four of Jerden's guilty verdicts because the trial court's notification did not identify that two of the verdicts merged with the other two and did not result in convictions. We reverse in part and remand with instructions for the trial court to correct its notice to the BMV.
We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand with instructions.
1. Whether the prosecutor's statements during closing argument constituted prosecutorial misconduct.
2. Whether the trial court erred in notifying the BMV that Jerden was found guilty of all four of his charges, even though the trial court merged two of the guilty verdicts and entered judgments of conviction on only two of the counts.
[¶2] At about 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. on the morning of April 13, 2014, Jason Woods (" Woods" ), was driving eastbound on State Road 46 to Bloomington, Indiana, when a silver BMW came up behind him. The BMW crossed the double solid yellow lines separating the eastbound lane from oncoming traffic and passed Woods, driving " at a high rate of speed." (Tr. 57). Soon thereafter, a black Chevrolet also came up behind Woods, crossed the double solid yellow lines, and passed Woods, also driving " at a high rate of speed." (Tr. 57). Woods pulled over at his grandfather's house on State Road 46 and called the Sheriff's Department to report the two cars.
[¶3] The Nashville Police Department sent out a dispatch about the two vehicles to its police officers. Ben Seastrom (" Deputy Seastrom" ), the Chief Deputy of the Department, heard the dispatch and started to travel westward to intercept the drivers. He stopped at a red traffic light at the intersection of State Road 46 and saw that there were two cars traveling on State Road 46--one in the eastbound lane and one in the turn lane. Deputy Seastrom then heard a revving noise and observed a dark-colored pickup truck, a silver BMW, and a black passenger car--the Chevrolet--cross the double yellow lines and pass the two cars. The three passing cars were traveling " [w]ell above the forty (40) mile[s] an hour [speed limit] zone," such that Deputy Seastrom estimated that they were driving seventy-five or eighty miles per hour, or " [a]t least double" the speed limit. (Tr. 66, 67).
[¶4] After witnessing the three cars, Deputy Seastrom activated his lights and siren and turned onto State Road 46 to intercept the vehicles. He followed the cars, driving at a speed of ninety to one hundred miles per hour, but the drivers did not stop. Deputy Seastrom notified dispatch that they were refusing to stop. However, as he got closer to the cars, the Chevrolet pulled to the side of the road. At that point, the Deputy continued to follow the truck and BMW, still driving at around ninety to one hundred miles per hour. He saw the truck and BMW pass another car but, eventually, as he got closer, the BMW pulled to the side of the road.
[¶5] Deputy Seastrom stopped behind the BMW and learned that Jerden was the driver. He asked Jerden " why he [had been driving] that way[,]" and Jerden said that " he did [not] know what [Deputy Seastrom] was talking about." (Tr. 74). The deputy wrote Jerden a ticket for improper passing within one hundred feet of an intersection. He considered charges for aggressive driving and reckless driving but did not have his legal book available to cite either of those statutes.
[¶6] In the meantime, an additional police officer, Sergeant Michael Moore (" Sergeant Moore" ), conducted a traffic stop of the black Chevrolet that had previously stopped. When Deputy Seastrom finished his traffic stop of Jerden, he went to meet Sergeant Moore. Joseph Durre (" Durre" ), the driver of the Chevrolet, told Deputy Seastrom that he and Jerden had met the driver of the truck outside of town and were on their way to Columbus, Indiana, to go to a car race. Deputy Seastrom wrote a ticket for Durre, also with the charge of improper passing within one hundred feel of an intersection.
[¶7] Subsequently, on May 20, 2014, the State charged Jerden with Count I, Class B misdemeanor reckless driving; Count II, Class A misdemeanor reckless driving; Count III, Class C infraction passing in a no passing zone; and Count IV, Class C infraction speeding. The trial court held a joint jury trial for ...