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Shoun v. State

Supreme Court of Indiana

January 25, 2017

Michael T. Shoun, Appellant (Defendant below),
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff below).

         Appeal from the Elkhart Superior Court, No. 20C01-1311-MR-000007 The Honorable Terry C. Shewmaker, Judge

         On Direct Appeal from a Sentence of Life Imprisonment Without Parole

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Donald R. Shuler Barkes, Kolus, Rife & Shuler, LLP Goshen, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Angela N. Sanchez Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          David, Justice.

         A jury found defendant guilty of murdering his 17-year-old girlfriend and recommended a sentence of life without parole. The trial court entered judgment accordingly. In a direct appeal, defendant now challenges his sentence arguing that: 1) the trial court committed fundamental error because it should have sua sponte determined that he had an intellectual disability, precluding a life without parole sentence, even though his trial counsel withdrew the petition to determine whether he had said disability; 2) his sentence is unconstitutionally disproportionate pursuant to Article 1, Section 16 of the Indiana Constitution; and 3) his sentence is inappropriate pursuant to Indiana Appellate Rule 7(B). In light of the facts and circumstances of this case, we hold that the trial court did not commit fundamental error, that defendant's sentence is proportional considering the severe nature of the crime and that defendant's sentence is not inappropriate in light of the nature of the crime and his character. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court.

         Facts and Procedural History

         In November 2013, Michael Shoun was dating Tiana Alter, who was 17 years old at that time. Shoun was approximately 8-9 years older than Alter and had been dating her since she was 13. Alter lived with Shoun's sister, Aeirel. Shoun was supposed to be residing in a work release facility as part of his sentence for a class C felony being a habitual traffic offender conviction; however, Shoun was a fugitive from the facility and was staying in Alter's room at his sister's home.

         Both Alter and Shoun used synthetic drugs. Alter would fall into a deep sleep as a result of her drug use, while Shoun would become paranoid as a result.

         On November 2, 2013, several members of Shoun's family gathered at Aeirel's home for a small party, including Shoun's cousin, Michael Lewis. Aeirel was not home, and while Shoun and Alter were there, they spent most of the time in Alter's room with the door shut, apparently smoking synthetic marijuana.

         When Shoun came out of the bedroom, Lewis noticed blood on him. Lewis asked Shoun why he was bleeding and Shoun indicated that it was not his blood. Fearing something bad had happened, Lewis then asked to be let into the room. At about the same time, Aeirel returned home and heard a loud noise, like someone being thrown into the wall. She came out to the hallway to find Lewis asking Shoun to be let into the room.

         Once let into the room, Shoun saw Alter rolled up inside carpet that had been pulled up from the floor. He saw and smelled a large amount of blood. He shook Alter's shoulder and called out her name, but she did not respond; she was cold to the touch.

         Shoun told Lewis he needed help to get rid of the body and then started talking about satellites, the devil and empires. Lewis told the others that Alter was dead and he and Aeirel decided to leave the home. Aerial called 911 and reported that she believed her brother killed his girlfriend.

         When police arrived at the home, they found Shoun in the basement throwing and breaking things. Shoun told police not to come downstairs, but when they did, they found him sitting against the wall with a shirt covering his hands. Shoun told police to leave or else "it's going to blow up." (Tr. 372.) After multiple officers arrived and drew their weapons, Shoun eventually complied and ...


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