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Wilson v. Superintendent
United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
June 22, 2018
MICHAEL WILSON, Plaintiff,
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE.
Wilson, by counsel, filed a habeas corpus petition to
challenge his conviction for murder under Cause No.
49G04-704-MR-57737. Following a jury trial, on May 7, 2008,
the Marion Superior Court sentenced Wilson to sixty years of
incarceration with fifteen years suspended subject to five
years of probation.
deciding this habeas petition, the court must presume the
facts set forth by the State courts are correct unless they
are rebutted with clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(e)(1). The Court of Appeals of Indiana summarized
the evidence presented at trial:
The facts most favorable to the verdict reveal that
thirty-two-year-old Wilson and thirty-three-year-old Nupur
Srivastava met at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in
New York in November 2006. After Nupur was discharged from
the center, she joined Wilson at his father's home in
Indianapolis in January 2007, and later rented an apartment
on the north side of town. In early April 2007, while Nupur
was visiting her family in Maryland, her parents convinced
her she needed to return to the rehabilitation center. Nupur
briefly returned to Indianapolis to retrieve her belongings.
The day before she was scheduled to leave Indianapolis, Nupur
and Wilson were drinking whiskey and arguing on Wilson's
father's patio when Wilson splashed Nupur with gasoline
and set her on fire.
Nupur ran through Wilson's father's house to the
bathroom where she filled up the bathtub and jumped into it
to put out the flames. While she was in the bathtub, Wilson
called 911 to report a fire. During the phone call, Nupur
asked Wilson why he had done that. Wilson responded, “I
didn't think it was going to be like that, I
swear.” When paramedics arrived at the scene, Nupur
walked unassisted out of the garage. Paramedic Jeff Brown ran
to Nupur and escorted her to an ambulance. When Brown asked
Nupur what had happened, she told the paramedic that Wilson
had poured gas on her and set her on fire. Brown placed Nupur
in the ambulance and turned to see a naked Wilson standing in
the yard. Wilson had burns on his hands and portions of his
forearms. Wilson told the paramedic that there had been an
accident with the gas grill. On the way to the hospital,
Nupur again told Brown as well as paramedic Shawn Grindstaff
that she and Wilson were arguing when Wilson threw gasoline
on her and lit her on fire. Wilson told another paramedic and
a hospital nurse that the fire started when he and Nupur
tried to light a grill using gasoline.
The following day, Indianapolis Police Department Sergeant
John Breedlove went to the hospital to interview Wilson.
Before the interview, Breedlove consulted with hospital staff
who advised him that Wilson was taking Percocet for pain.
Before questioning Wilson, Sergeant Breedlove read him his
Miranda rights and had him sign a waiver of rights form.
Wilson told the sergeant that he understood his rights, and
the sergeant began to question him.
During the interview, Wilson asked to make a telephone phone
call so that he could talk to someone because of the
seriousness of the events. The sergeant told Wilson that he
could stop answering questions at any time and allowed Wilson
to make a telephone call. Wilson attempted to call his
father, who he was unable to reach. After making the phone
call, Wilson told the sergeant that the person he wanted to
speak to was his father but that he was unable to reach him.
Sergeant Breedlove readvised Wilson of his rights, and Wilson
told the sergeant that he understood those rights and was
willing to continue answering questions. During the
interview, Wilson appeared coherent, understood the questions
the sergeant asked him, never became confused, and thought
about and provided answers to the questions. Although Wilson
delayed answering some of the questions about how Nupur
became doused with gasoline and set on fire, Sergeant
Breedlove interpreted Wilson's responses to be deceitful
rather than confused.
During the interview, Wilson admitted that his previous story
about the grill accident was not true. Wilson explained that
he told that story because he panicked. According to Wilson,
he was holding a gas can while he and Nupur were arguing.
Nupur pulled on the can and gas apparently splashed on her
and ignited when one of them lit a cigarette. Wilson
explained that when Nupur drank alcohol, “she always
got very, very argumentative and wanted to put Wilson down
and wanted to say things to push buttons.” The State
subsequently charged Wilson with attempted murder and
aggravated battery. Nupur, who had third degree burns on 80%
of her body, was placed in a drug-induced coma to allow for
treatment and pain management. After she died from
multi-organ failure resulting from her burns five weeks
later, Wilson was charged with murder.
At trial, additional evidence revealed that in March 2007,
while Nupur was staying at a hotel in Indianapolis, she and
Wilson got into a physical altercation. Jimmy Barona, the
hotel's owner, testified that Nupur's hair was messed
up, and she had a black eye and scratches on her face. When
Nupur and Barona told Wilson to leave Nupur's hotel room,
Wilson pushed Nupur and appeared ready to fight Barona.
Barona and a hotel maintenance worker had to physically
remove Wilson from the room.
In addition, a former neighbor testified that Wilson and
Nupur argued every day. According to the neighbor, one night
Wilson banged on Nupur's apartment door for hours
demanding to be let into the apartment. The following
morning, the neighbor noticed plaster from the ceiling and
the walls had been knocked to the floor by Wilson's
Also at trial, ATF Fire Research Engineer Brian Grove
testified that he conducted nine tests where gas was splashed
on a manikin wearing jeans and a sweater similar to those
that Nupur was wearing. The tests revealed that Nupur was
seated when she was doused with approximately one-half cup of
gasoline below her waistband and above her knees. The
gasoline was then ignited with a flame, not a cigarette,
which had to have been placed one to two inches from the
gasoline. Two lighters were found on the patio where Nupur
was sitting. One of the lighters was found on a table, and
the other was found on the ground.
Wilson testified that at the time he gave his statement to
Sergeant Breedlove, Wilson was “pretty doped up,
” and easily confused. He also testified that Nupur set
herself on fire and asked him not to tell anyone what she had
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