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Hill v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

January 17, 2018

James Hill, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

         Appeal from the Lake Superior Court The Honorable Salvador Vasquez, Judge. Trial Court Cause No. 45G01-1609-MR-00004

          Attorneys for Appellant Scott King Russell W. Brown, Jr. Scott King Group Merrillville, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Justin F. Roebel Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          MAY, JUDGE.

         [¶1] In this interlocutory appeal, James Hill appeals the denial of his motion to dismiss the charges against him. He argues his due process rights were violated by the thirty-six year delay in charging him with murder, [1] murder in perpetration of robbery, [2] and Class A felony attempted robbery.[3] He contends his defense was prejudiced because his alibi witnesses died in the intervening years. He also claims the State was not justified in its delay.

         [¶2] While we agree the State's reason for delay was tenuous at best, we conclude Hill has not demonstrated prejudice. Thus, we affirm the trial court's denial of Hill's motion to dismiss and remand.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] In the early morning of November 14, 1980, Hammond Police Officer Larry Pucalik was murdered during an attempted robbery at the Holiday Inn-Southeast located in Hammond, Indiana. Later that day, Hammond Police Detective Robert Seaman received an anonymous phone call from a person who stated, "Pierre Catlett killed your cop." (App. Vol. III at 146.)[4]

         [¶4] On November 18, 1980, police arrested Hill on an unrelated charge.[5] When he was arrested, Hill "made the spontaneous utterance 'I know you guys think I shot that Hammond cop.'" (Id. at 149.) On March 9, 1981, Hill asked jail staff if he could speak with a detective. According to the probable cause affidavit used in Hill's 2016 indictment:

Hill confessed to detectives that he drove the vehicle used in the attempted robbery and murder of Hammond Police Officer Larry Pucalik. Hill recalled that [sic] Lee Mayes and Michael LNU[6] as the subjects who went inside of the hotel. Detectives showed Hill a spread of photographs. Hill picked out the photograph of Larry Mayes, who [sic] Hill called Lee Mayes as one of the persons who went inside of the Holiday Inn-Southeast. Hill then picked out the photograph of Pierre Catlett, who [sic] Hill called Michael LNU as the other person who went inside of the Holiday Inn-Southeast.

(Id.) (footnote added).

         [¶5] On October 3, 1983, Hammond Police Detective Michael Solan, Sr. spoke with Jimmy Dale Woods, who told Detective Solan:

[Mayes] came over to Jimmy Dale's house . . . and once Mayes entered the house, he was walking back and forth really nervous speaking out the window, so Jimmy asked him what's wrong and he said the police are looking for me. Something went wrong in Hammond. A security guard was shot and eventually he asked for some money to get out of town which [sic] his mother gave him $160, I believe, to Mayes to get out of town and Mayes went to Indianapolis.

         (MTD Tr. at 55.) When asked about the original investigation from the 1980s, Detective Solan indicated:

We had substantial evidence, but we did not have enough evidence -- we had substantial evidence, but my opinion, I was the one that would decide if we were going to charge. We had substantial evidence, but we weren't going to charge, roll the dice because we had some problems with the investigation at that time so we continued on.

(Id. at 56.) Detective Solan testified the investigation into Officer Pucalik's murder stymied in 1992 or 1993, with no charges filed.

         [¶6] In 2009, Woods was being investigated for federal firearms and drug trafficking crimes. Special Agent Jason Gore submitted, as part of a probable cause affidavit, that Woods told Special Agent Gore:

In 1980 [Woods] was living with his mother Betty Schular, now deceased, in Gary, Indiana. Woods recalled that one evening Larry Mayes came over to his house in a very excited manner. Woods recalled that Mayes told Schuler "I think I did something today, I think I killed somebody". [sic] Woods stated that Mayes told him and Schuler that he was in trouble and needed some money to get out of town.
Woods stated that Mayes went on to say that he, (Mayes), James HILL and Mike LNU were driving around looking to rob someone. Woods recalled that Mayes stated that they found a Holiday Inn that only had one female desk clerk. Woods remembered Mayes stating that they figured the desk clerk was alone and would be an easy target. Woods explained that Mayes told him that during the robbery, a security guard came out from the backroom, and went for his gun. Woods stated that Mayes told him he shot the security guard and fled the area without getting any money from the clerk. Woods recalled that Vincent Johnson was also at his house the night Mayes came over.
Woods stated that he and Schuler gave Mayes some drugs to calm him down and some money to get out of town. Woods believed that Mayes went to Indianapolis to hide out. Woods recalled that the following Monday, Mayes returned back to Gary, Indiana and came over to Schuler's house again. Woods stated that Mayes told him that the guy he shot was an ex-cop and a military hero.

(App. Vol. III at 149-50.) Based on Woods' statement, Special Agent Gore also interviewed Vincent Johnson, who corroborated portions of Woods' version of events.

         [¶7] Further, Special Agent Gore testified Woods gave him additional information in 2009 "tying Mr. Hill and Mayes ...


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