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Saintignon v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

January 17, 2019

Danny L. Saintignon, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Delaware Circuit Court Trial Court Cause No. 18C03-1503-MR-1 The Honorable Linda R. Wolf, Judge

          Attorney for Appellant Ana M. Quirk Muncie, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Kelly A. Loy Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          RILEY, JUDGE.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         [¶1] Appellant-Defendant, Danny Saintignon (Saintignon), appeals his conviction for conspiracy to commit burglary resulting in bodily injury, a Class A felony, Ind. Code §§ 35-43-2-1; 35-41-5-2; murder, I.C. § 35-42-1-1(1); and robbery resulting in bodily injury, a Class B felony, I.C. § 35-42-5-1(1).

         [¶2] We affirm.

         ISSUES

         [¶3] Saintignon presents five issues on appeal, which we consolidate and restate as the following three issues:

(1)Whether the trial court abused its discretion or deprived Saintignon of a defense when it excluded certain witnesses;
(2) Whether the trial court abused its discretion when it admitted certain photographic evidence; and
(3) Whether the State produced sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Saintignon committed conspiracy to commit burglary resulting in bodily injury, murder, and robbery resulting in bodily injury.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         [¶4] On December 23, 2009, Saintignon telephoned his friend Tyler Barton (Barton) to enlist his help in robbing Monica Brown[1] (Brown), who lived in Muncie, Indiana, and sold prescription pain medication. Brown had recently been to Florida where she had purchased a large amount of medication. Saintignon had a sexual relationship with Brown, who at times supplied him with medication without charge. Brown usually kept her medication supply in her purse. Saintignon proposed to Barton that Saintignon would go to Brown's home, place her purse with the medication in it by the front door, and distract her with sex so that Barton could open the front door and grab the purse. Between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. that day, Saintignon and Barton drove to Brown's house so that Barton would know where it was. They planned that Saintignon would contact Barton later, Barton would park around the corner from Brown's house, and Barton would wait for Saintignon to text him that it was time to grab the purse.

         [¶5] The two split up. On December 24, 2009, Saintignon contacted Barton around 1:00 a.m. They drove separately to Brown's home, with Barton following Saintignon's car. Barton observed Saintignon's car stop at Brown's house. Barton drove on and parked around the corner in the pre-arranged spot. Barton waited for several hours for Saintignon to call or text him that it was time to grab Brown's purse, but Saintignon never contacted him. Barton eventually left. As he drove away, he could see Saintignon's car still parked at Brown's house.

         [¶6] Around 4:40 a.m., Barton received a frantic call from Saintignon that Barton had to meet him at Barton's father's house. When Barton arrived at his father's house, he noted that the back door had been kicked in. Saintignon was inside wearing nothing but his underwear. Barton thought that he saw a red speck on one of Saintignon's shoes. Saintignon told Barton that "I killed that bitch" by cutting her throat and stabbing her. (Transcript Vol. V, p. 162). Saintignon also told Barton that it had happened in a bedroom and that he had "cleaned it up like a professional." (Tr. Vol. V, p. 163). Saintignon had a dark-colored purse with him that had an emblem in the form of an initial on it. The purse contained prescription pain medication, some of which Saintignon shared with Barton. Barton could see that the purse also contained debit and food stamp cards. That morning, Saintignon called the automated account for Brown's Green Dot prepaid debit card and checked her balance.

         [¶7] Saintignon put his clothes, his shoes, and the purse in a trash bag. Barton and Saintignon drove out into the country to find a place to burn the contents of the trash bag. Saintignon instructed Barton not to talk about what had happened and told him that if he were ever contacted by law enforcement, that he should say that Saintignon had been with him all that night playing video games because he was fighting with his wife. Barton's car blew a tire, and Saintignon contacted a friend to come and retrieve them. While they were waiting, Brown's cell phone kept ringing, so Saintignon removed it from the trash bag and threw it from the car. Saintignon told Barton to burn the trash bag. Barton later went back to his disabled car, took the trash bag to his grandmother's, and hid it. Barton eventually threw the trash bag away.

         [¶8] Around 11:00 a.m. on December 24, 2009, Brown's daughters, K.B. and S.B., ages seventeen and ten, respectively, went to Brown's home, where they found the front door unlocked, which was unusual. Upon entering, they found their younger brother running around the home and their younger sister in her play pen, unattended. They found Brown in a bedroom covered with a sheet. Her throat had been slit with a cut that reached to her fifth vertebrae. She had been stabbed and cut approximately eighty times, with ten of those stabs puncturing her lungs and liver.

         [¶9] K.B., Brown's ex-husband, and others initially identified Cecil Ferguson[2] (Ferguson) as a suspect in Brown's killing. Ferguson was interviewed in the days following Brown's death but was eventually ruled out as a suspect due to the fact that none of his DNA was found at the crime scene, his phone records did not connect him to the killing, and witnesses vouched for his whereabouts. Starting the day after Brown's death, Saintignon contacted Brown's brother multiple times to ask him if he knew the whereabouts of the clip to Brown's .38 caliber handgun. Saintignon claimed to have purchased the gun from Brown. During these conversations, Saintignon told Brown's brother that he was concerned that the authorities were monitoring his telephone calls. On December 26, 2009, Officer Melissa Pease (Officer Pease) of the Muncie Police Department (the MPD) interviewed Saintignon. She noted that he had bruising on his right bicep, scratches on his back, and a wound on his left palm. Officer Pease documented these injuries with photographs. Saintignon was questioned and released. The MPD conducted a number of interviews, executed searches of several homes, and collected DNA samples of Saintignon, Ferguson, and others, but no arrests were made. Several weeks after Brown's murder, Barton's father, Roy, confronted Saintignon about involving Barton in trouble. Saintignon told Roy that, "I killed the bitch." (Tr. Vol. 6, p. 158). Saintignon asked Roy if he thought Barton could be depended upon to uphold his alibi. Several months after Brown's murder, Saintignon told his wife, Sandrina, that he had slit Brown's throat because she had incriminating information about him.

         [¶10] The case went cold until 2011, when Roy anonymously contacted the MPD to report that Saintignon had killed Brown. The tip led investigators to others who had information, including Sandrina. On March 18, 2014, Barton gave a statement to the MPD and was arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit burglary resulting in bodily injury, attempted burglary resulting in serious bodily injury, and assisting a criminal. On March 30, 2015, based on the new information received from Barton and others, the State filed an Information, charging Saintignon with conspiracy to commit burglary resulting in bodily injury as a Class A felony; murder; felony murder; and robbery resulting in serious bodily injury as a Class A felony. The trial court set an omnibus date of May 21, 2015.

         [¶11] By October of 2016, Barton had been released from jail pending resolution of his charges. On October 21, 2016, Barton received a direct message on a social media account from Jonathan Polosky (Polosky), who was unknown to Barton. Polosky wrote, "Hey, bro, you don't know me, this legal shit you've got going on needs to stop. You know what I'm talking about," which Barton took as a suggestion that he refrain from testifying against Saintignon. (Tr. Vol. V, pp. 186-87). Polosky also contacted Barton's then girlfriend, Kaylee Corn (Corn), with a message that her "old man" needed to "back away." (Tr. Vol. VI, p. 48). Barton and Corn reported the messages to the MPD, who used Barton's account to contact Polosky and ask him what he was talking about. Polosky responded, "[t]hat shit with [Saintignon]" and "[i]f this is who it should be, stay away from the courts." (Tr. Vol. VI, p. 62). On November 9, 2016, the MPD interviewed Polosky, who admitted that, while they were housed together at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, Saintignon had asked him to contact Barton and Corn to attempt to convince Barton not to testify against Saintignon.

         [¶12] On November 16, 2016, the State filed an additional Information, charging Saintignon with conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, a Level 6 felony. On August 16, 2017, the trial court issued an order directing the parties to file their final witness lists by September 1, 2017. On September 1, 2017, Saintignon filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude evidence of any of his prior bad acts, including his membership in the Aryan Brotherhood. On September 5, 2017, the State filed its response indicating that it did not object to Saintignon's motion since it did not intend to introduce any such evidence. The trial court granted Saintignon's motion in limine. Saintignon's jury trial was scheduled to begin Monday, September 25, 2017.

         [¶13] On Friday, September 22, 2017, Saintignon filed a notice to the trial court and an amended witness list indicating for the first time that the defense would call Jeff Burton (Burton) as an alibi witness. The State filed a motion to strike Saintignon's notice to the trial court on the grounds that it constituted an improper and untimely notice of alibi. At 10:41 p.m. on September 22, 2017, Saintignon filed a belated notice of alibi defense. The State also moved the trial court to strike that belated notice.

         [¶14] Saintignon's jury trial took place from September 25, 2017, to October 10, 2017. On September 25, 2017, before the commencement of trial, the trial court held a hearing on the belated notice of alibi filings. The trial court granted the State's motion to strike the belated notice of alibi, excluding Saintignon's alibi witness. During the testimony of Officer Pease, the State sought to introduce the photographs she had taken of Saintignon when she interviewed him on December 24, 2009, documenting the injuries she observed on his bicep, back, and hand. The photograph showing the bicep injury was a frontal view of Saintignon nude from the waist up. Three of Saintignon's tattoos were fully visible, and three tattoos were partially visible in the photograph. The defense objected on the basis that the photograph violated the trial court's Order in Limine excluding any evidence of Saintignon's affiliation with the Aryan Brotherhood. The trial court overruled Saintignon's objection and admitted the photograph into evidence.

         [¶15] On October 4, 2017, the eighth day of trial, Saintignon sought to call Ferguson as a witness, but Ferguson invoked his Fifth Amendment right. The trial court found that Ferguson was unavailable to testify and held a hearing on evidentiary issues related to Ferguson, including the admissibility of statements by proposed witnesses Bradley Stone[3] (Stone), Johnny Hines, Jr., (Hines), and Robert Wine (Wine), all of whom Saintignon proposed would testify that Ferguson had confessed to killing Brown. In addition, Saintignon proposed that Tonya Ferguson (Tonya), Ferguson's ex-wife, would testify that Ferguson had once held knives to her throat and threatened to cut off her head. The trial court excluded Stone, Hines, and Wine as witnesses because their proposed statements were made at least three years after Brown's murder, were not unique or reliable, and had no "persuasive assurances of trustworthiness." (Tr. Vol. VIII, pp. 19-20). The trial court also excluded Tonya as a witness, finding that the acts she would relate took place months before Brown's ...


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