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Abd v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

March 19, 2019

Ziad Abd, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Lisa F. Borges, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 49G04-1605-MR-20441

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Megan Shipley Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Jesse R. Drum Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Riley, Judge.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         [¶1] Appellant-Defendant, Ziad Abd (Abd), appeals his conviction and sentence for murder, Ind. Code § 35-42-1-1(1); and robbery resulting in bodily injury, a Level 5 felony, I.C. § 35-42-5-1(1).

         [¶2] We affirm.

         ISSUES

         [¶3] Abd presents us with five issues on appeal, which we restate as:

(1) Whether the trial court erred when it admitted evidence procured pursuant to certain search warrants;
(2) Whether the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Abd committed the offenses;
(3) Whether the trial court committed fundamental error by failing to give a certain instruction on circumstantial evidence;
(4) Whether the trial court committed fundamental error when it asked Abd's counsel if Abd would exercise his right of allocution at sentencing; and
(5) Whether Abd's sentence is inappropriate in light of the nature of his offenses and his character.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         [¶4] Mohamed Mahmoud[1] (Mahmoud) ran a tax preparation business, Taxesmart, on the west side of Indianapolis, Indiana. Mahmoud often worked late into the night and only accepted cash, which he deposited in a safe that he kept in his office under his desk. Only Mahmoud knew the keypad combination to the safe, and there was no key backup to open it. Mahmoud charged $300 to $350 per tax return. During tax season, Mahmoud saw approximately twenty clients per day. Mahmoud had prepared Abd's tax return in the past, and they attended the same mosque.

         [¶5] Abd and his son, Akram Abd (Akram), had a reported combined total income of less than $20, 000 for the tax years 2013, 2014, and 2015. Abd had been evicted or had eviction proceedings instigated against him at his previous two residences for failure to pay rent, and by April 2016, eviction proceedings had been instigated against him at his current residence at the Cherry Glen Apartments. Abd's black, four-door 2012 Toyota Camry had been repossessed for non-payment in January 2016, and he was still behind in his payments as of April 2016. Akram drove a white, four-door 2012 Ford Taurus, which had tinted windows and a sunroof, but he was also behind in his payments. In the year preceding April 2016, Abd never had more than $32 in his bank account, and Akram's bank account had been closed in February 2016 with a negative balance of $700.

         [¶6] In the early days of April 2016, Abd appeared at Taxesmart inquiring about the location of one of Mahmoud's other businesses. The employee speaking with Abd did not know the location of the other business, but he instructed Abd to ask Mahmoud, who was working in his office at the time. Abd left without speaking to Mahmoud. Around midnight on April 20, 2016, an officer with the Speedway Police Department observed Abd and Akram sitting in Akram's Ford Taurus parked at the Wayne Township School Corporation's administrative building. The car was parked such that Abd and Akram had a direct view of the front door of Taxesmart across the street where Mahmoud was still working that evening. Abd and Akram eventually left the Taurus, walked to a nearby gas station, returned to their car, and, after speaking briefly with the officer, drove away.

         [¶7] Surveillance footage showed Mahmoud locking the door to his business and leaving work at 1:37 a.m. on April 21, 2016. At 2:18 a.m. someone appearing much taller than Mahmoud's five feet, one inch, unlocked the door of Taxesmart and left approximately a minute and a half later carrying something. At 2:20 a.m. Akram called Abd on his cell phone. Abd and Akram left Indianapolis in their separate vehicles during the early morning hours of April 21, 2016. Akram called Abd seventeen times between 2:20 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. They drove east to Dayton and then north to Detroit, where they abandoned Akram's Ford Taurus on the side of the highway.

         [¶8] Around 7:00 a.m. on April 21, 2016, Mahmoud's body was found at the Airport Office Center office park (AOC) on the west side of Indianapolis by a man who spotted the body as he went to the office park dumpster. Mahmoud's legs were bound with duct tape at the ankles, and his arms were bound with duct tape behind his back. Mahmoud's head had been covered with a grey and white patterned pillowcase which had been filled with approximately one pound of feces. The pillowcase was duct taped around Mahmoud's neck. Mahmoud had died of asphyxiation due to the ligature of duct tape around his neck, the binding of his hands behind his body, and the inhalation of feces, which had completely blocked his respiratory and alimentary systems.

         [¶9] Surveillance cameras at the AOC captured images of a white four-door sedan with tinted windows and a sunroof entering the office park at 1:54 a.m. on April 21, 2016. The same white sedan left the office park at 2:10 a.m., followed by a black four-door sedan. No other cars were seen on the footage entering or leaving the AOC overnight. Investigators soon learned that Abd and Akram had been parked across the street from Taxesmart hours before Mahmoud had been found dead, and ...


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