from the Marion Superior Court. The Honorable Christina R.
Klineman, Judge. Cause No. 49G17-1311-FD-73120
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Valerie K. Boots Marion County Public
Defender Agency Indianapolis, Indiana
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of
Indiana Justin F. Roebel Deputy Attorney General
SHARPNACK, SENIOR JUDGE.
of the Case
Christina Schermerhorn appeals her convictions of criminal
recklessness, a Class A misdemeanor,  and domestic battery, a
Class A misdemeanor. We affirm.
Schermerhorn raises two issues, which we restate as:
I. Whether the trial court erred in refusing to admit
Schermerhorn's proposed evidence; and
II. Whether the trial court abused its discretion in the
course of instructing the jury.
and Procedural History
Schermerhorn and her husband, Stanley, lived with their three
young children in Marion County. On the morning of November
10, 2013, Stanley woke up because the children were crying.
He found Schermerhorn doing the dishes. She appeared to be
intoxicated, but when Stanley asked her about it, she denied
drinking. Next, Stanley found a two-thirds empty bottle of
vodka in the diaper box. Stanley showed it to Schermerhorn,
and an argument ensued.
As Stanley poured out the bottle in the sink, Schermerhorn
hit him in the back of the head with her fist. He turned
around, and Schermerhorn tried to hit him several more times.
Next, she picked up a knife and slashed him on the left arm.
Schermerhorn dropped the knife, ran into the bathroom, and
locked the door.
The cut on Stanley's arm bled profusely. He went to the
bathroom door to ask for help, but Schermerhorn cursed at him
and refused to come out. Next, he called his mother, who
called his sister-in-law to come look after the children.
Stanley drove to the hospital after his sister-in-law
arrived, and hospital staff reported his injury to the
Officers were dispatched to the house to investigate the
report. They arrived at 9:30 a.m., and Schermerhorn answered
the door and allowed them to enter. Stanley's
sister-in-law was not present. Schermerhorn was alone with
the children and appeared to the officers to be intoxicated,
exhibiting slurred speech and unsteady balance. In the
kitchen, officers found blood on a knife and on the floor.
One of the officers went to the hospital to interview
Stanley, where he was being treated for a one to two inch
long cut on his left arm. The officer returned to the house,
and Schermerhorn was placed in custody. Later, the State
charged Schermerhorn with criminal recklessness, a Class D
felony; two counts of domestic battery, one as a Class D
felony and the other as a Class A misdemeanor; and two counts
of battery, one as a Class D felony and the other as a Class
Prior to trial, Schermerhorn asserted a defense under Indiana
Code section 35-41-3-11 (1997), known as the "effects of
battery statute." Schermerhorn also filed a notice of
intent to offer evidence of alleged prior misconduct by
Stanley, including: (1) many instances of physical, sexual,
and emotional abuse of her, (2) an incident of physical abuse
of his teenage son from a prior relationship, and (3) use of
controlled substances. The State filed a response. After a
hearing, the court determined Schermerhorn was entitled to
introduce evidence pertaining to Stanley's alleged
physical abuse of her on the night before the incident in
question but rejected all of her other proposed evidence. The
court later reconsidered its decision and ruled that
Schermerhorn could present evidence as to any prior incidents
of Stanley's alleged abuse against her, but Schermerhorn
could not present to the jury evidence of Stanley's
alleged physical abuse of his son or Stanley's alleged
use of controlled substances.
At trial, Stanley testified as described above. By contrast,
Schermerhorn testified that she was under the influence of
alcohol and prescription medication that morning, and, as a
result, she could not remember anything that happened after
Stanley asked her if she had been drinking. Schermerhorn
described for the jury several prior occasions when Stanley
had physically, sexually, and emotionally abused her,
including verbal and physical abuse on the night of November
Outside the presence of the jury, Schermerhorn made an offer
of proof as to an audio recording. According to Schermerhorn,
who described the events presented in the recording as it
played for the trial court, the recording captured Stanley
choking his teenage son in her presence in August 2011. The
trial court did not allow Schermerhorn to present that
evidence to the jury. The jury determined Schermerhorn was
guilty of felony criminal recklessness, misdemeanor domestic
battery, and misdemeanor battery, but not guilty of felony
domestic battery and felony battery.
The court imposed alternative misdemeanor sentencing for the
criminal recklessness charge. In addition, the court
dismissed the Class A misdemeanor battery verdict. As a
result, the court entered a judgment of conviction and
sentence for Class A misdemeanor criminal recklessness and
Class A misdemeanor domestic battery. This appeal followed.
Schermerhorn argues the trial court should have allowed her
to present to the jury the August 2011 audio recording of
Stanley choking his teenage son in her presence, along with
her testimony about the incident. She further contends the
court's error deprived her of her right to present a
defense under the federal and state constitutions. The State
responds that Schermerhorn's evidence was inadmissible
under Indiana's Rules of Evidence and, as a result, her
constitutional rights were not violated.
In general, a trial court has broad discretion in ruling on
the admissibility of evidence and we will disturb its rulings
only where it is shown that the court abused its discretion.
Turner v. State, 953 N.E.2d 1039, 1045 (Ind. 2011).
Where, as here, an evidentiary claim raises constitutional
issues, our standard of ...