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Snow v. State

Supreme Court of Indiana

June 22, 2017

Summer Snow, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the Lake Superior Court Criminal Division 1, No. 45G01-1412-F5-42 The Honorable Salvador Vasquez, Judge

         On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 45A03-1605-CR-1175

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT P. Jeffrey Schlesinger Office of the Public Defender Crown Point, Indiana Mark A. Bates Schererville, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Katherine M. Cooper Andrew A. Kobe Deputy Attorneys General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Rush, Chief Justice.

         Every crime has a story. But when that story is told at trial, each part must be admissible under Indiana's Rules of Evidence-simply being part of the story is not enough. We thus reiterate today our holding from over twenty years ago: res gestae-the common-law doctrine that made evidence admissible when it was part of a crime's story-is no more.

         Here, Summer Snow carried a handgun as she battered Officer Terry Peck and resisted law enforcement. Though she was not charged with a firearm-related offense, the State introduced her gun into evidence at trial. Without res gestae as grounds for admission, our question becomes whether the gun is admissible under Indiana's Rules of Evidence. We hold that it is. The trial court acted within its discretion in finding the gun relevant to Snow's aggressive state of mind and in determining that the danger of unfair prejudice did not substantially outweigh that relevance. We affirm the trial court.

         Facts and Procedural History

         One November morning, before daybreak, Summer Snow was fighting with her boyfriend, Reginald Harris. She called the police twice during the fight, but cancelled each call before anyone responded. She eventually kicked Harris out of her house, and he took refuge in the driveway in the back seat of her car. Snow tried to kick him out of her car as well, calling the police for a third time when he refused to leave.

         When Officer Terry Peck arrived, he asked Harris to step out of the car. Harris refused, so Peck tried to remove him-resulting in a scuffle where Harris pulled Peck into the car and hit him repeatedly. Snow then began shouting, disparaging Officer Peck and encouraging Harris to beat him up.

         Officer Peck eventually handcuffed Harris and placed him in the back of a patrol car, but Snow continued screaming at both Peck and Harris. Peck asked for her identification and, when she refused to show it, cautioned her to stop shouting and go inside the house or else she would go to jail for disorderly conduct. He then heard the house door open and shut and assumed Snow had gone inside. But she soon stormed back out, resuming the stream of shouting.

         After three more warnings, Snow screamed "I dare your b**** a** to arrest me." Officer Peck then tried to arrest her, but she tucked her hands under her sweatshirt. He managed to grab one of her wrists, leading her to punch him, hit his shoulders, and scratch his chin. As they continued to struggle, she jumped on him and began biting his shoulder close to his neck. Finally, Officer Peck restrained Snow and-as he handcuffed her-felt something hit his knee and boot and heard it land on the ground. As Officer Peck soon learned, that something was a gun.[1]

         The State charged Snow with two counts of Level 5 felony battery against a public safety official, and one count each of Level 6 felony resisting law enforcement and Class B misdemeanor disorderly conduct. It charged Harris with Level 5 felony battery against a public safety official and Level 6 felony resisting law enforcement.[2] Neither Harris nor Snow was charged with a gun-related offense.

         Harris and Snow each filed a motion in limine to stop the State from referring to Snow's gun at trial. They argued that because Officer Peck learned about the gun only after arresting Snow, the State was merely speculating about the gun's relevance; therefore, the danger of unfair prejudice substantially outweighed any probative value under Indiana Rule of Evidence 403. The State responded that because Snow may have gone into the house to get the gun, it was relevant to show "some sort of aggression." The trial court agreed with the State that the gun was "significantly probative of the defendant's action" and her "aggressive manner, " and held that "403 gives the balance in favor of the State" because the prejudice from the gun did not substantially outweigh that relevance.

         At the ensuing joint jury trial, the same attorney represented both Snow and Harris. The State introduced the gun into evidence over Harris and Snow's objection, using it to argue that because Snow was carrying the gun, she-not Officer Peck-was the aggressor. And because Snow was not licensed to carry the gun, the State used it to cast doubt on her testimony that she had it to protect herself on a trip to the gas station. Snow responded that she was not carrying the gun that day, but left it in her car. Because of this argument, the trial court instructed the jury that "[a] person may carry a handgun without being licensed if the person carries [it] . . . in or on property that is owned, leased, rented, or otherwise legally controlled by the person."

         The jury found Snow guilty of one count of Level 5 felony battery against a public safety official and one count of Level 6 felony resisting law enforcement, and acquitted her of the other two counts. It found Harris guilty as charged. Both defendants appealed, now with separate attorneys, challenging the gun's admission at trial. The State responded that ...


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