Antonio M. Merritt, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.
from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Lisa F. Borges,
Judge Trial Court Cause No. 49G04-1510-MR-38159
Attorney for Appellant Valerie K. Boots Marion County Public
Defender Agency Indianapolis, Indiana.
Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
G. Banks Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana.
of the Case
Antonio M. Merritt appeals his convictions for murder, a
felony, following a jury trial, and his adjudication as a
habitual offender. Merritt's conviction followed his
second jury trial. At his first trial, one witness testified
that she witnessed Merritt murder the victim, and another
witness testified that he observed Merritt shortly after the
murder with the murder weapon, but the jury resulted in a
hung verdict. At his second trial, those two witnesses could
not be located and did not appear to testify. As a result,
the trial court permitted, without objection, their
statements from the first trial to be submitted to the second
On appeal, Merritt alleges that the trial court committed
fundamental error when it did not sua sponte
admonish the second jury to not speculate about the reasons
those two witnesses might have been unavailable to testify
while their prior statements were being read into evidence.
We hold that the trial court had no obligation to make such
an admonishment without a request by one of the parties.
Thus, we affirm Merritt's convictions.
and Procedural History
In October of 2015, Merritt ran a "drug house" out
of his residence in Indianapolis. Tr. Vol. II at 241. Jordan
White and Elizie Wombles frequented Merritt's residence
and were friends. In the evening hours of October 21 and into
the early morning hours of October 22, White, Wombles, and
Merritt were at Merritt's residence. Wombles was smoking
synthetic marijuana while White sold cocaine to visitors.
White brought a revolver to the house, but he left it in the
About twenty minutes after White had made his last sale of
cocaine, Merritt "told [White] to give him some"
cocaine. Id. at 128. White refused, and Merritt
became "angry." Id. Merritt went into the
kitchen, picked up the revolver, and went into the living
room. Merritt began to argue with White, and Wombles left the
room and went into the kitchen. Wombles then "heard a
gunshot" and "ran out the back door."
Id. at 133. Later, another visitor to the house
found White dead on the living room floor.
As Wombles fled the scene, Merritt "intercepted"
her on the sidewalk. Id. at 134. Merritt had the
revolver with him and was "threatening to kill"
Wombles and "her kids." Id. at 163, 183.
Merritt then had Wombles call her stepson, Connor Hendricks,
to give them a ride to Merritt's mother's apartment.
In the car, Wombles told Connor that Merritt had just shot
White. And, at the apartment, Wombles called her sister, and
her sister told her that White had been found dead. Wombles
then confronted Merritt and told him, "You killed that
boy." Id. at 140.
Wombles' friend, Rusell Church, later picked Wombles and
Merritt up from the apartment. Merritt wanted Church to give
him and Wombles a ride to Fountain Square in Indianapolis to
buy more drugs, and Church agreed. Church observed Merritt
with "a larger revolver." Tr. Vol. III at 48.
Church further observed that two of the revolver's
chambers were empty. On the way out of the apartment
building, Church observed Merritt sell the revolver to
another person. En route to Fountain Square, Wombles ran out
of the vehicle as it was stopped for traffic. Merritt did not
On October 27, 2015, the State charged Merritt with
White's murder. At his ensuing jury trial, Wombles and
Church both testified against ...