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Hanks v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

February 14, 2019

Darwin L.G. Hanks, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

          Appeal from the Allen Superior Court The Honorable Frances C. Gull, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 02D05-1712-F5-354

          Attorney for Appellant Mark A. Thoma Deputy Public Defender Leonard, Hammond, Thoma & Terrill Fort Wayne, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General Caryn N. Szyper Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Crone, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Darwin L.G. Hanks was convicted, following a jury trial, of committing level 5 felony battery and level 6 felony domestic battery against his six-year-old son. On appeal, Hanks contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. Specifically, he asserts that the State presented insufficient evidence to refute his defense of parental privilege to discipline his child. Finding the evidence sufficient, we affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On Tuesday November 28, 2017, when six-year-old D.H. arrived at school, his first-grade teacher immediately noticed "a huge, red, splotchy mark that covered most of his - the side of his face and kind of into his ear." Tr. Vol. 2 at 87. This "concerned [her] right away[, ]" and she knew she needed to speak with D.H. Id. When she asked him how he got the mark on his face, he eventually told her that it happened "last night" and that his face "felt like fire." Id. at 88. D.H.'s teacher contacted the school's case manager, who in turn notified the Allen County Department of Child Services ("DCS"). Shortly thereafter, DCS case manager Kim Jackson came to D.H.'s school to investigate. She observed that D.H. had "a reddish-purplish bruising to the side of his face extending from the edge of the left side of his mouth to his left ear and then underneath the ear, almost behind it." Id. at 135. She took pictures of D.H.'s face and then interviewed him. D.H. told her that his father thought that D.H. had taken his cigarettes. D.H. reported that "his father had slapped him" and "threw him on the couch." Id. at 137.

         [¶3] Jackson went to D.H.'s home and spoke with D.H.'s parents, Hanks and Ailissa. Hanks admitted to Jackson that he hit D.H. Hanks said he was trying to teach D.H. that stealing and lying were wrong. He said he threatened to "whoop [D.H.'s] butt[, ]" and when D.H. started to cry and scream, Hanks "hit him in the face." Id. at 138. Ailissa told Jackson that she witnessed Hanks hit D.H.

         [¶4] D.H. was absent from school the next two days. The school contacted law enforcement to do a welfare check on D.H. When officers arrived at the home, Hanks answered the door, but D.H. was not there. Hanks told officers that he knew DCS was investigating him, and stated, "Because my son is a thief, he got smacked in the mouth." Id. at 99-100.

         [¶5] D.H. returned to school that Friday, with the mark on his cheek still "very visible[, ]" but "starting to fade." Id. at 93, 103. Then, on Monday, December 4, 2017, D.H.'s teacher observed "new marks" on his face that were "different than the mark on his face before." Id. at 94. One of the marks looked "more like a scratch" and was on the opposite side of his face. Id. When D.H.'s teacher asked him how his weekend was, he told her that "it was bad," and that "his dad had hit him three more times[.]" Id. D.H.'s teacher again had pictures taken, contacted the school's case manager, and made a report to DCS. Jackson returned to the school to observe the injuries and speak to D.H. D.H. told Jackson that his father had slapped him with an open hand because he had taken some of his parents' clothes and hid them in his bedroom. D.H. said that his father slapped his two-year-old brother B.H. as well. D.H. also told Jackson that his mother gave him an ice pack for his face and told him not to tell anyone about the incident. Jackson contacted law enforcement and went to D.H.'s home. The children were removed from the home on December 5.

         [¶6] Hanks was interviewed by police on December 6. He admitted that, on November 27, he "popped" D.H. in the mouth "a little too hard" which caused the large red mark on D.H.'s face. Tr. Vol. 3 at 18. Hanks stated that he popped B.H. in the face as well. Hanks denied that a second incident occurred or that he slapped D.H. and caused the injuries to the opposite side of his face. However, Hanks admitted to his mother, D.H.'s grandmother, that he had slapped D.H. because the six-year-old "got cocky back to him." Tr. Vol. 2 at 225.

         [¶7] The State charged Hanks with level 5 felony battery and level 6 felony domestic battery. Following a trial, the jury found Hanks guilty as charged. The trial court sentenced Hanks to concurrent terms of four years for the level 5 felony and two years for the level 6 felony. This appeal ensued.

         Discussion ...


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