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Henderson v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 17, 2018

Denny Henderson, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Porter Superior Court The Honorable David L. Chidester, Judge Trial Court Cause Nos. 64D04-1711-F6-11030 64D04-1703-CM-2189

          Attorney for Appellant Benjamin D. Waite Deppe Law Center Hobart, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana J.T. Whitehead Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana.

          BRADFORD, JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] On the morning of January 11, 2017, Denny Henderson was involved in an automobile accident outside the Porter police station when the truck he was driving collided with other vehicles parked in front of the station. He was subsequently charged with and found guilty of Class A misdemeanor driving while intoxicated, endangering a person. Henderson appeals his conviction, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting certain evidence, excluding certain evidence, and instructing the jury. Concluding otherwise, we affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On January 10, 2017, Henderson went to a party at Mike Pouche's home in Porter. Charlie Fernandez, Henderson's step-son, was at the party with Henderson. At some point, Fernandez fell asleep. He was awakened during the early morning hours of January 11, 2017, when he heard Henderson "yelling for help[, y]elling for someone to call the police." Tr. Vol. III, p. 133. Fernandez and Henderson left Pouche's home and went to a nearby police station.

         [¶3] Once at the station, Fernandez locked the driver's side door of Henderson's truck, propped his coat underneath Henderson's head, and exited the passenger side of the truck. Fernandez entered the station and spoke with dispatcher Danielle Scott. Fernandez informed Scott that he needed help because Henderson was in the truck, bleeding and hurt. Porter Police Corporal Jason Casbon was the first to respond. Chesterton Police Sergeant Daniel Rocha also responded.

         [¶4] Upon arriving at the station, Corporal Casbon spoke with Fernandez. After determining that he was ok, Corporal Casbon turned his attention toward the area where Henderson's truck was parked. He noticed Scott's Honda Civic, a Kia belonging to another dispatcher, and Henderson's truck. The truck's front bumper was "resting up against the back pumper of the Honda Civic." Tr. Vol. III, p. 23.

         [¶5] As he approached the truck, Corporal Casbon observed that Henderson, the only person in the truck, was sitting in the driver's seat, leaning over into the passenger side of the cabin. Henderson appeared to be injured. Corporal Casbon also discovered that the truck was still running and that the driver's side door was locked. As he turned to walk back to his squad car to get a "lock-out tool" to unlock the driver's side door, Corporal Casbon heard the truck's "engine start to rev." Tr. Vol. III, p. 26. The truck slowly started to push the Honda Civic. It accelerated, hit Corporal Casbon's nearby squad car, and pushed the Honda Civic into the Kia. Corporal Casbon and Sergeant Rocha were eventually able to turn the truck off and remove Henderson from the vehicle.

         [¶6] Sergeant Rocha observed that Henderson appeared confused, hurt, and agitated. His face was covered with blood and he expressed concern for Fernandez. Corporal Casbon noticed the strong odor of alcohol on Henderson's breath and clothing. His eyes were watery and his speech was slurred. Based on his training and experience, Corporal Casbon concluded that Henderson's behavior was consistent with that of a person who was under the influence. Henderson was eventually transported to the hospital where he was treated for his injuries. Each of the medical personnel that encountered Henderson that night concluded that he was intoxicated.

         [¶7] Approximately five days later, Henderson called the police station and requested to speak with Corporal Casbon. During their conversation, Henderson "was apologetic for what happened and his behavior that night." Tr. Vol. III, p. 47. He explained "why he wouldn't let [Fernandez] drive and he said [it was] because [Fernandez] was slow." Tr. Vol. III, p. 47. Henderson admitted to driving the truck on the night in question, offered to pay for the damage to the vehicles, and thanked Corporal Casbon "for saving his life." Tr. Vol. III, p. 48.

         [¶8] On March 7, 2017, the State charged Henderson under Cause Number 64D04-1703-CM-2189 with Count I - Class A misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated, endangering a person; Count II - Class C misdemeanor operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent to at least .08 but less than .15; Count III - Class C misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated; and Count IV - Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement. On November 28, 2017, the State added nine additional counts, including a Level 6 felony count, and the matters were consolidated under Cause Number 64D04-1711-F6-11030. Henderson sought to dismiss the additional charges, and, on November 30, 2018, the trial court dismissed each of the nine additional charges as well as the original Count II. Following a two-day jury trial, Henderson was found guilty of Counts I and III and not guilty of Count IV. The trial court merged Count III into Count I and sentenced Henderson to a 365-day term with all but four days suspended to probation.

         Discussion and Decision

         I. Evidentiary Issues

         A. Standard of Review

         [¶9] "The admission or exclusion of evidence is a matter left to the sound discretion of the trial court, and a reviewing court will reverse only upon an abuse of that discretion." Lieberenz v. State, 717 N.E.2d 1242, 1245 (Ind.Ct.App. 1999), trans. denied. "An abuse of discretion occurs when a trial court's decision is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances before the court." Anderson v. State, 961 N.E.2d 19, 26 (Ind.Ct.App. 2012). "In determining the admissibility of evidence, the reviewing court will only consider the evidence in favor of the trial court's ruling and unrefuted evidence in the defendant's favor." Sallee v. State, 777 N.E.2d 1204, 1210 (Ind.Ct.App. 2002). We will ...

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