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Benson v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

March 30, 2017

Charles A. Benson, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the Allen Superior Court Trial Court Cause No. 02D04-1602-F1-3 The Honorable John F. Surbeck, Jr., Judge

          Attorney for Appellant Michelle F. Kraus Fort Wayne, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Lyubov Gore Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Bailey, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Following a jury trial, Charles A. Benson ("Benson") was convicted of Attempted Murder, as a Level 1 felony;[1] Resisting Law Enforcement, as a Level 6 felony;[2] and Criminal Recklessness, as a Level 6 felony, [3] and was found to be a habitual offender.[4] Benson now appeals, raising the sole issue of whether the trial court committed fundamental error by failing to give a specific jury instruction on unanimity.

         [¶2] We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] Around 2:00 p.m. on January 30, 2016, Officer Robert Geiger ("Officer Geiger") of the Fort Wayne Police Department was driving in his marked squad car, in full police uniform. After seeing a vehicle make an improper turn, Officer Geiger initiated a traffic stop. He then approached the vehicle, and asked the driver for her license and registration. The driver said she did not have her driver's license with her and eventually produced an identification card. Officer Geiger then spoke with the male passenger-later identified as Benson-and Officer Geiger noticed that Benson would not make eye contact with him. Officer Geiger asked Benson for identification, and Benson said he did not have any with him. Benson identified himself as Antoine Woods.

         [¶4] Officer Geiger returned to his squad car to run the information he had been given. While Officer Geiger was doing so, he saw Benson step out of the vehicle and make eye contact with him. Benson had his hands positioned in front of him, toward his waistband, as though he was concealing a weapon. Benson then began running. Officer Geiger immediately ran after Benson, telling Benson to stop, and using his radio to notify dispatch of the pursuit.

         [¶5] Officer Geiger chased Benson, who ran by residences, a church, and an empty market. At times, there were bystanders in the area. At one point while running, Benson turned and made eye contact with Officer Geiger. Benson had a gun in his hand. Benson held eye contact with Officer Geiger, pointed the gun directly at him, and fired multiple shots. Officer Geiger dropped to the ground, called out "shots fired" over his radio, and continued chasing Benson. Officer Geiger then fired several rounds, each missing Benson.

         [¶6] After running through an intersection, Benson ran around one side of a house, while Officer Geiger pursued Benson from the other side. When Benson came around the house, Benson squared up his body so that he was facing Officer Geiger. Benson made eye contact with Officer Geiger, raised his gun so it was pointed directly at Officer Geiger, and fired. Officer Geiger returned fire, and Benson stumbled to the ground. Benson let go of the gun, lifted his hands, and Officer Geiger kneeled on Benson to control him. Additional officers arrived, and Benson was arrested. No one was struck during the pursuit, which lasted around ninety seconds. It was later determined that Benson's gun had jammed during the shooting, and the gun contained additional rounds of ammunition.

         [¶7] On February 4, 2016, the State charged Benson with Count I, Attempted Murder; Count II, Resisting Law Enforcement; Count III, Criminal Recklessness; and Count IV, Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Serious Violent Felon.[5] The State later added Count V, a habitual offender enhancement, and Count VI, a firearm enhancement.[6] The trial court conducted a bifurcated jury trial on June 1, 2016 and June 2, 2016. During the guilt phase of the trial, Officer Geiger testified, and there was also testimony from residents who heard or saw a portion of the incident. At some point during the trial, Counts IV and VI were dismissed. At the conclusion of the guilt phase, the jury found Benson guilty of Counts I, II, and III. The trial court then conducted the habitual offender phase, after which the jury found Benson to be a habitual offender.

         [¶8] On July 1, 2016, a sentencing hearing was conducted. The trial court entered judgment against Benson and sentenced him to consecutive sentences of 40 years on Count I and one year on Count II. On Count III, the trial court sentenced Benson to 2 ½ years, with the sentence to be served consecutive to Count I. The sentence for Count I was enhanced by 20 ...

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