from the Vanderburgh Circuit Court, No. 82C01-1512-MR-7498
The Honorable David D. Kiely, Judge The Honorable Michael J.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Matthew J. McGovern Anderson, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Kelly A. Loy Andrew A. Kobe Deputy Attorneys
General Indianapolis, Indiana.
Carltez Taylor was convicted of murder and conspiracy to
commit murder, and sentenced to life without parole
("LWOP"). He appeals his convictions, arguing that
the State's references to his nickname "Looney the
Shooter" led to fundamental error, that the State
untimely amended the conspiracy to commit murder charge, and
that insufficient evidence supports his conspiracy to commit
murder conviction. He also argues that his LWOP sentence is
inappropriate, violates the United States and Indiana
Constitutions' proportionality requirements, and violates
the Sixth Amendment because a jury never found a qualifying
aggravator beyond a reasonable doubt. We reject his first
three arguments, revise his sentence from LWOP to an
aggregate eighty-year term, and decline to address his other
challenges to LWOP.
and Procedural History
night after Thanksgiving in 2015, seventeen-year-old Carltez
Taylor went with a friend to hang out at D.G.'s house.
D.G. and one of her friends-both teenage girls-were home on
weekend passes from a juvenile detention center. D.G. knew
Taylor as "Looney, " and introduced him that way to
her mother, Lyn. Uncomfortable with Taylor and his friend,
Lyn ordered the boys to leave. They went outside and smoked
cigarettes, but soon snuck back into the house and to the
that night, another teenage boy arrived, bringing a 9mm
Hi-Point handgun. He handed it to one of the other boys, who
removed the magazine and handed the gun to Taylor. Taylor
then put the magazine back in the gun and stuck the Hi-Point
into his waistband.
night wore on, D.G. texted J.W. (a recent fling) about
hanging out and having sex. When Taylor found out, he called
J.W. a "b****" and said he "wasn't s***
[and] wasn't about nothing." The three boys plotted
about "b****ing him" or "punking him out,
" which D.G. described as fighting someone who does not
want to fight.
rhetoric escalated. Taylor threatened to beat up D.G. unless
she got J.W. to come over. Afraid, D.G. began enticing
J.W.-who was suspicious, repeatedly asking if it was a setup.
But after D.G. lied that she was alone, J.W. ultimately
agreed to meet her at the corner near her house. J.W. and his
nephew, T.S., met her there shortly thereafter.
asked J.W. and T.S. if they were "strapped" (had
guns on them)-they did not. Then, D.G. kept them waiting at
the corner for about ten minutes, supposedly for her
"sister." But instead of a friend, a figure wearing
black emerged from between two houses, with a hood snugly
tied around his face. Seeing him, J.W. and T.S. walked the
hooded person approached, D.G. recognized him as Taylor and
watched him pull out the 9mm Hi-Point. When shots started
flying-five or six in total-J.W. and T.S. took off running.
They ran toward an alley, but when T.S. got there, he
realized that J.W. was no longer with him. He returned to the
street and found J.W. lying on the sidewalk, shot in the
then watched the shooter run past, recognizing him as Carltez
Taylor, an acquaintance he knew from playing basketball. As
Taylor ran by J.W., he said "CTK b****." J.W. and
his friends were known as the "cream team, " and
"CTK" means "cream team killer." Within
minutes, J.W. died on the sidewalk from a single gunshot
wound to the back.
learning J.W.'s fate, D.G. and Taylor ran back to her
house. As they arrived, Taylor grabbed D.G., put the
still-hot gun to her head, and told her that if she said
anything he would kill her. They returned to D.G.'s
basement, where Taylor asked D.G. if he hit J.W. She told him
that he did.
then removed his hoodie and texted a friend to pray for him.
He and the other teenage boys hid the gun and magazine in
separate parts of the basement's ceiling and made a large
hole in the wall to hide inside.
next day, T.S.'s family told police that Taylor was the
shooter, and D.G. led detectives to the hoodie and the murder
weapon. After DNA from the hoodie matched Taylor-leading to a
warrant for his arrest-he turned himself in to police. Months
later, when D.G. saw Taylor at juvenile court, he called her
"the police" and said he "should have killed
[her] when he had the chance."
State charged Taylor with murder, attempted murder, and
conspiracy to commit murder. The State filed a sentencing
enhancement for all three offenses based on Taylor's use
of a firearm, and sought LWOP based on the "committing
murder by lying in wait" aggravator.
two days before trial, the State amended the conspiracy count
to say that another teenager, not Taylor, supplied the
handgun. Taylor objected that the amendment was untimely, but
also asked the trial court to prevent the State's
witnesses from using his nickname "Looney the
Shooter" because of its undue prejudice. The court
preliminarily agreed, but offered to reconsider at trial.
During trial, Taylor did not object when a detective referred
to him as "Looney the Shooter, " nor when the State
used the nickname in its closing argument.
jury found Taylor guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit
murder, and not guilty of attempted murder. It also found him
eligible for an enhanced sentence for using a firearm.
sentencing, the jury was specifically directed to consider
Taylor's age as a mitigating factor. Ultimately, the jury
recommended a sentence of life without parole. The court
accepted the recommendation, sentencing Taylor to LWOP on the
murder conviction plus fifteen years for the firearm
enhancement, and to a concurrent thirty-five-year sentence on
the conspiracy to commit murder conviction. It then merged
the enhancement and concurrent sentence into LWOP.
now directly appeals both his convictions and his sentence to
this Court, raising six issues. See Ind. Appellate
The State's References to Taylor as "Looney the
Shooter" Did Not ...