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Harris v. State

Supreme Court of Indiana

June 22, 2017

Reginald Harris, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the Lake Superior Court Criminal Division 1, No. 45G01-1412-F5-41 The Honorable Salvador Vasquez, Judge

         On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 45A03-1605-CR-1168

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Kristin A. Mulholland 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

         Reginald Harris and his girlfriend, Summer Snow, separately appeal their convictions for battery against a public safety official and resisting law enforcement. They each challenge the admission of Snow's gun at their joint trial, arguing that it was not relevant and that its unfair prejudice made it inadmissible. For the reasons given in Snow's case-issued today as a companion opinion-the trial court was within its discretion to admit the gun. And though the gun was not relevant to Harris's crimes, he failed to seek a separate trial or a limiting instruction-thus waiving any argument that the gun's admission denied him a fair trial. We affirm his convictions.

         Facts and Procedural History

         After fighting with police officer Terry Peck, Reginald Harris and Summer Snow were convicted of battery against a public safety official and resisting law enforcement. Since we give the full facts in today's companion opinion, Snow v. State, No. 45S03-1703-CR-169, __N.E.3d__, slip op. at 2-4 (June 22, 2017), we summarize them here.

         Early one November morning, Summer Snow was fighting with her boyfriend, Reginald Harris. After she kicked him out of her house, he went to the driveway and sat in her car. Snow tried to kick him out of her car as well, calling the police when he refused to leave.

         Officer Terry Peck responded, and asked Harris to step out of the vehicle. Harris refused, so Peck tried to remove him-resulting in a scuffle where Harris pulled Peck into the car and hit him repeatedly. Officer Peck eventually handcuffed Harris and locked him in the back of a patrol car. After fighting with Snow, Officer Peck arrested her as well. As he did so, a gun she was carrying fell, hit his knee and boot, and landed on the ground.

         The State charged Harris with Level 5 felony battery against a public safety official and Level 6 felony resisting law enforcement.[1] Neither Harris nor Snow was charged with a gun-related offense. At the ensuing joint jury trial, the same attorney represented both Snow and Harris. The State introduced the gun into evidence over the defendants' objection, and the jury found Harris guilty as charged.

         Harris and Snow separately appealed, challenging the gun's admission at trial. The Court of Appeals affirmed Harris's convictions in a split decision. Harris v. State, 66 N.E.3d 628, 629 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016). Harris petitioned for transfer, arguing that the Court of Appeals incorrectly applied the defunct res gestae standard. The State did not respond. We granted transfer, thereby vacating the Court of Appeals opinion. Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A).

         Standard of Review

         The trial court admitted Snow's gun over Harris and Snow's objection; we review this evidentiary ruling for an abuse of discretion. Zanders v. State, 73 N.E.3d 178, 181 (Ind. 2017). Harris also alleged at oral argument that the gun's admission denied him a fair trial. Because he waived this claim, we review it for fundamental error-an "extremely narrow exception to the waiver rule" where Harris bears the ...


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