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Fansler v. State

Supreme Court of Indiana

June 21, 2018

Aaron L. Fansler Appellant (Defendant below)
v.
State of Indiana Appellee (Plaintiff below).

          Argued: November 21, 2017

          Appeal from the Grant Circuit Court, No. 27C01-1506-F3-15 The Honorable Mark E. Spitzer, Judge.

         On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 27A02-1610-CR-2325

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Evan K. Hammond Grant County Public Defender

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana

          Eric P. Babbs, Stephen R. Creason, Ian McLean, Angela Sanchez Deputy Attorneys General

          OPINION

          DAVID, JUSTICE.

         In this case we address whether, under Indiana Evidence Rule 617, admission of incriminating statements made in a motel room[1] during the course of a custodial interrogation required the State to make available an electronic recording of those statements at trial. We find that the trial court did not err in admitting the defendant's statements without such a recording because the motel room in question was not a "place a detention, " as defined by the rule.

         Facts and Procedural History

         On June 18, 2015, Aaron Fansler ("Fansler") accepted a Facebook friend request to connect with a user who appeared to be a twenty-one-year-old woman named "Kenzie Allen" ("Kenzie"). Kenzie was not a real person; a fake Facebook account using that name was set up by a drug task force team investigating drug dealing in Grant County. Communicating first through social media, and then through private text messages, Fansler agreed to sell two-tenths of a gram of heroin to Kenzie at the Hart Motel, located in Marion, Indiana.

         The next day, lured by the prospects of sexual intercourse and a drug sale, Fansler visited Kenzie's motel room where he was greeted by Detective Wesley McCorkle, a member of the Joint Effort Against Narcotics ("JEAN") Team. Detective McCorkle identified himself as Kenzie's brother and assured Fansler that Kenzie had just stepped out to purchase cigarettes and would return soon. Fansler, who appeared visibly nervous, decided to wait for Kenzie outside the room. As Fansler walked along the outside of the motel, a second officer, Detective Sergeant John Kauffman, approached Fansler and arrested him. Fansler was brought back into the motel room, where officers noticed a syringe protruding from an open flap in his cargo pants. Officers retrieved the syringe and, upon searching Fansler further, they recovered over a dozen clonazepam and oxycodone pills, numerous empty plastic bags, a scale, a tourniquet, a hypodermic needle, two cigarette packs, and more than $250 in cash.

         After Fansler's pockets were emptied and his Miranda warnings were read, Fansler made two incriminating statements. The first statement came in response to officers' questions about the drugs he promised to sell. When officers asked Fansler "where the two points of heroin were, "[2]he told them that the "points" should be in the baggies. Tr. Vol. I at 147. Officers then searched inside one of the cigarette packs and recovered two small ziplock baggies containing a substance that later tested positive for heroin. Within that same cigarette pack, officers found "another clear baggy that contained a large amount of gray compressed powder." Tr. Vol. I at 149. That substance also later tested positive for heroin. When officers asked Fansler "why he didn't tell [them] about [the large amount of compressed powder] being in the cigarettes in his possession, " Fansler made a second incriminating statement, claiming that he did not want to "get caught with it" and "go to jail for it." Tr. Vol. I at 152.

         On June 24, 2015, Fansler was charged with possession of heroin with intent to deliver, felony possession of heroin, misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance, and misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia. Fansler filed a motion to suppress his incriminating statements, which the trial court denied after holding a preliminary hearing.

         A jury trial was held on August 1-2, 2016. Fansler admitted possession, but denied intent to deliver and raised an affirmative entrapment defense. During the State's case in chief, Detective Sergeant Kauffman testified as to Fansler's two self-incriminating statements-that the two points he promised to sell to Kenzie were in the baggies and that he didn't tell officers about the large amount of compressed powder in his ...


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