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Ricketts v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 20, 2018

Ronnie Ricketts, Jr., Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Vanderburgh Superior Court, The Honorable Robert J. Pigman, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 82D03-1703-F2-1230

          AttorneyS for Appellant Scott L. Barnhart Brooke Smith Keffer Barnhart LLP Indianapolis, Indiana.

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana James B. Martin Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Bradford, Judge.

         Case Summary

         In March of 2017, Ronnie Ricketts, Jr., located his domestic partner Sarah Metcalf eating dinner with two men at an Evansville mission, one of whom Ricketts had told Metcalf not to see anymore. Ricketts told the two men that they were dead, retrieved two handguns from his vehicle parked outside, and shot out a window of the mission when he found the door barred. The State charged Ricketts with Level 2 felony burglary. In late November and early December of 2017, Ricketts requested that he be allowed to dismiss his public defender and continue pro se. After Ricketts explained to the trial court that he had been diagnosed with several mental illnesses and that his medications were no longer effective, the trial court denied Ricketts's request to proceed pro se. A jury convicted Ricketts as charged, and the trial court sentenced him to seventeen and one-half years of incarceration. Ricketts contends that the trial court erred in denying his request to represent himself and that his sentence is inappropriately harsh. Because we disagree with both contentions, we affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶1] On March 2, 2017, Maurice Huffman, Huffman's mother, James Smith, and Metcalf were eating dinner together in the dining hall at the Evansville Rescue Mission. There were "a lot" of children volunteering in the Rescue Mission that day. Tr. Vol. II p. 235. Metcalf had had sexual intercourse with Smith on a single occasion, and Ricketts, the father of Metcalf's infant daughter and with whom she had been romantically involved for approximately four years, had previously told Metcalf not to associate with Smith anymore. As the quartet was eating, Ricketts came into the hall, called Metcalf a "lying whore[, ]" and told Huffman and Smith that if they did not leave her alone "[they] would be dead." Tr. Vol. II pp. 57, 176. According to Smith, Ricketts entered the hall; said "this is how it's f-ing going to be" to Metcalf; and told Smith and Huffman, "you are both going to die now[.]" Tr. Vol. II p. 67.

         [¶2] Metcalf followed Ricketts outside as he retrieved two handguns from his vehicle. Despite Metcalf begging him to stop, Ricketts tried to reenter the Rescue Mission, and, when he discovered that he could not reenter through the door, shot out a window and stepped through. Smith ran to the kitchen and Hoffman ran out the back door and hid behind a dumpster. Ricketts searched for Smith and Hoffman without success, returned to his vehicle, and drove off. After a vehicular pursuit, police apprehended Ricketts in front of his home.

         [¶3] Ricketts told police after his arrest that he and Metcalf had been together for four years and that he had gone to the mission to see if she was lying to him. Ricketts told an interviewer that

[t]he first time when I went in, and I seen her with 'em, and I got pissed. I went back out to the truck got [the handguns]. They shut me out with the door-the wooden doors, so I shot the window out. I didn't shoot at nobody. I didn't hurt nobody. I shot the window out. Kick-pushed it through, and went through it and went after 'em.

State's Ex. 40. The interviewing detective asked Ricketts if he told both Smith and Huffman that he was going to kill them, to which Ricketts responded, "You're damn right I did." State's Ex. 40. When the detective asked, "if you would have found them would you have shot them?", Ricketts replied, "Oh, yeah." The detective then asked or stated, "You-you wanted to kill them[, ]" to which Ricketts replied, "Yeah." State's Ex. 40. On March 6, 2017, the State charged Ricketts with Level 2 felony burglary.

         [¶4] At a hearing on November 28, 2017, Ricketts told the trial court that he wished to proceed pro se because trial counsel had agreed to delays in the case and had been unsuccessful in having his bail reduced. The trial court denied Ricketts's request to proceed pro se. At a hearing on December 4, 2017, Ricketts again indicated that he wanted to proceed pro se. Ricketts's trial counsel indicated that Ricketts wanted to be added to the trial court's calendar because he wanted "to make a record that he wishes to proceed pro-se[, ]" the hearing the previous week had been before a substitute judge, and "there's a stronger record that needs to be laid." Tr. Vol. II p. 22. The following exchange occurred:

THE COURT: Okay you do not want [trial counsel] to represent you?
[Ricketts]: No, sir.
THE COURT: Okay do you want to tell me why?
[Ricketts]: Not really a reason. [J]ust that she hasn't been doing nothing. I've been in here for nine months. I've had [a] heart attack, and my health issues are pretty bad, and my other stuff's going on and-
THE COURT: Okay.
[Ricketts]: I don't think she's been doing what she should do to try and get me out.
THE COURT: Well it's not up to her whether you get out. That's up to the court. Uh, have you ever represented yourself before?
[Ricketts]: No, sir. This is the first time I've ever been in jail.
THE COURT: Okay. Well the-do you have any familiarity with the rules of evidence or the trial procedures, court ...

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