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Jones v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

April 20, 2018

Kavonya Jones, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable David J. Certo, Judge The Honorable David Hooper, Magistrate Trial Court Cause No. 49G12-1609-CM-36641

          Attorney for Appellant Rory Gallagher Marion County Public Defender Appellate Division Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Marjorie Lawyer-Smith Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Bradford, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] On September 16, 2016, Kavonya Jones fled from police officers who were trying to locate an individual who was thought to be her boyfriend. She was subsequently charged with and convicted of Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement and Class A misdemeanor driving while suspended. On appeal, Jones challenges her conviction for resisting law enforcement. Specifically, Jones contends that the evidence is insufficient to sustain her conviction. Alternatively, she contends that the trial court erred in instructing the jury and in finding that alleged prosecutorial misconduct did not warrant a mistrial. Concluding that the evidence is sufficient to sustain the challenged conviction and finding no error by the trial court, we affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] At approximately 12:30 p.m. on September 16, 2016, Corporal Travazz Buckley, Deputy Brandon Berry, and Lieutenant Kenny Sanders (collectively, "the Officers"), all of the Marion County Sherriff's Department, were on duty working with the Department's warrant unit in Indianapolis. The Officers were attempting to locate Tyrone Esters, who had outstanding warrants for battery on law enforcement and burglary. Esters was described to the Officers as a "dark-complected, medium-sized male" who was about six feet tall and was known to change his hairstyle, sometimes wearing his hair in "dreads." Tr. Vol. II, p. 17.

         [¶3] While attempting to locate Esters, the Officers conducted surveillance on a residence located at 4630 East 34th Street. The Officers chose this residence "based on information that [Jones] was living at the address and [because Lieutenant Sanders] had serval prior contacts with [Jones and] knew she was associated with" Esters. Tr. Vol. II, p. 16. Specifically, Jones "was known to [Lieutenant Sanders] as the girlfriend of Tyrone Esters at the time." Tr. Vol. II, p. 18. The Officers had also received information that Esters could be driving a gold "Chevy Malibu." Tr. Vol. II, p. 161. Lieutenant Sanders knew that Jones frequently drove a gold Malibu. While Corporal Buckley watched the residence, Lieutenant Sanders and Deputy Berry waited in a nearby parking lot.[1]

         [¶4] Corporal Buckley observed Jones drive away from her residence in the gold Malibu. When Jones returned a short time later, Corporal Buckley observed a black male who appeared to match Esters's general description in the passenger seat of the vehicle. Corporal Buckley informed the other officers that he may have spotted their target. They then made their way to Jones's residence. Once Lieutenant Sanders arrived, he pulled his vehicle behind the gold Malibu and he and Corporal Buckley activated their emergency lights.

         [¶5] After the Officers activated their emergency lights, Jones accelerated her vehicle such that "a little bit of dust kicked up." Tr. Vol. II, p. 163. Corporal Buckley was forced to swerve to avoid being hit by Jones who pulled out on to 34thStreet "without stopping at the stop sign." Tr. Vol. II, p. 165. Jones then turned onto Drexel Avenue before stopping. Corporal Buckley testified that Jones "knows [his] truck" and that his lights and sirens were on as he approached her vehicle. Tr. Vol. II, p. 10.

         [¶6] After Jones stopped her vehicle, the Officers ordered both Jones and the passenger to exit the vehicle. Once out of the vehicle, it was clear to the Officers that the passenger was not Esters. Nevertheless, Jones was placed under arrest for fleeing from the Officers and for driving with a suspended license.

         [¶7] On September 17, 2016, the State charged Jones with Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement by fleeing and Class A misdemeanor driving while suspended. Before the matter proceeded to trial, Jones filed a motion to suppress in which she alleged that her arrest was illegal because the Officers did not have reasonable suspicion to stop her. Following a hearing, the trial court denied Jones's motion. At the end of trial, a jury found Jones guilty as charged.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶8] On appeal, Jones challenges her conviction for resisting law enforcement. Specifically, Jones contends that the evidence is insufficient to sustain her conviction. Alternatively, she contends that the trial court erred in instructing the jury and in finding that the deputy prosecutor's alleged misconduct did not warrant a new trial.

         I. Sufficiency of the Evidence

         [¶9] In challenging her conviction for resisting law enforcement, Jones argues that the evidence is insufficient to prove that the Officers had reasonable suspicion to stop her.

When reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a conviction, appellate courts must consider only the probative evidence and reasonable inferences supporting the verdict. It is the fact-finder's role, not that of appellate courts, to assess witness credibility and weigh the evidence to determine whether it is sufficient to support a conviction. To preserve this structure, when appellate courts are confronted with conflicting evidence, they must consider it most favorably to the trial court's ruling. Appellate courts affirm the conviction unless no reasonable fact-finder could find the elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt. It is therefore not ...

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