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Jones v. State

Supreme Court of Indiana

December 19, 2017

Destin Jones, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the Vigo Superior Court 1, No. 84D01-1504-F3-863 The Honorable John T. Roach, Judge

         On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 84A05-1609-CR-2065

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Cara Schaefer Wieneke Wieneke Law Office, LLC Brooklyn, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Andrew A. Kobe Michael Gene Worden Deputy Attorneys General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Rush, Chief Justice.

         We cherish stories about changes of heart and abandoned criminal endeavors. Take Dr. Seuss's beloved children's tale about the Grinch, whose softened heart and renounced endeavor to steal Christmas ended the story with joyful celebration. This case, too, involves an individual going from house to house overnight, stealing property from sleeping inhabitants-as well as opportunities to abandon criminal efforts and escape liability.

         But this story's ending gives no reason to celebrate.

         Here, the defendant's night of criminality, which included a plot to rob a gas station, earned him a host of criminal charges. He contested two of them by claiming that he had abandoned his attempt and conspiracy to rob the station. But a jury disagreed. We hold that although abandonment is an available defense for both attempt and conspiracy charges, the evidence is sufficient to support the jury's verdicts. We therefore affirm the convictions.

         Facts and Procedural History

         One night in Terre Haute, Destin Jones went to several houses and stole various items from the sleeping residents. At about 2:00 a.m., Jones and his accomplice, Stoney Johnson, decided to rob a Speedway gas station. With dark hoods over their heads, masked faces, and what appeared to be guns in their hands, they walked toward the station from its rear.

         But unlike the tranquil homes, the station was bustling with a stream of customers. Jones and Johnson lurked for a while on one side of the building, crouched behind a pair of large outdoor freezers. A few times they advanced toward the front entrance before again ducking out of view. Eventually they unmasked their faces, removed their hooded sweatshirts, and entered the store with empty hands-and with a different crime in mind. While customers preoccupied the store's cashier, Jones burglarized the back office and rummaged through the manager's safe. Jones and Johnson then left, retrieving their discarded attire from behind the freezers.

         Police caught up with Jones and Johnson the next week at an apartment. There, police found clothes worn at the gas station, property stolen from the victimized homes, and several firearms. The State charged Jones with twenty-one offenses.

         For his charges of attempted robbery of and conspiracy to rob the Speedway, Jones asserted an abandonment defense. Since some evidence supported Jones's assertion, the trial court properly instructed the jury on the defense. Ultimately, the jury returned guilty verdicts on nine offenses: six thefts, burglary of the Speedway back office, and attempted robbery of and conspiracy to rob the Speedway. The trial court merged the attempt and conspiracy convictions and sentenced Jones to an aggregate seventeen-year term-including twelve years for the merged attempt and conspiracy.

         Jones appealed, challenging only the attempt and conspiracy convictions. The Court of Appeals affirmed the conspiracy conviction, reasoning that the abandonment defense was unavailable for Jones's conspiracy charge. Jones v. State, 75 N.E.3d 1095, 1098-99 (Ind.Ct.App. 2017). But it vacated the attempt conviction, concluding that the State did not disprove the abandonment defense beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. at 1099-1100.

         We now grant Jones's petition to transfer, vacating the Court of Appeals ...


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