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Richardson v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

April 18, 2019

Ronald Richardson, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Fayette Circuit Court The Honorable Hubert Branstetter, Jr., Judge Trial Court Cause No. 21C01-1512-F2-968

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Mark Small Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Caroline G. Templeton Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          BRADFORD, JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] On December 2, 2015, Ronald Richardson sold approximately $70 worth of heroin to Shannon Burroughs. When he was arrested a short time later, he was in possession of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. He was subsequently convicted of Level 4 felony dealing in a narcotic drug and sentenced to a ten-year term of incarceration. On appeal, he contends (1) that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the State to strike the only African-American member of the venire (the "potential juror") from the jury, (2) the trial court abused its discretion in admitting certain evidence, (3) his rights protecting the prohibition against double jeopardy were violated, and (4) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. Concluding that trial court properly found that the State proffered a race-neutral reason for striking the potential juror from the jury; the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the challenged evidence; Richardson was only convicted of one crime and, thus, was not subjected to double jeopardy; and the evidence is sufficient to sustain his conviction for Level 4 felony dealing in a narcotic drug, we affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On December 2, 2015, Burroughs was associating with Ciera Golay and Robert Thomas when she arranged to purchase heroin from Richardson. Burroughs arranged to purchase seven "caps" from Richardson for $10 per cap. A cap is about a tenth of a gram of heroin packaged in a clear capsule. Burroughs agreed to meet Richardson at a Village Pantry in Wayne County to complete the purchase.

         [¶3] Richardson arrived at the Village Pantry with his girlfriend Comfort Bair and one of Bair's friends. Bair was driving and Richardson was sitting in the backseat. When she arrived, Burroughs sat in the front passenger seat of the vehicle and gave Bair the money. Richardson gave Burroughs a "hand full" of caps, more than the seven they had discussed. Tr. Vol. I p. 124. Burroughs took the caps and returned to Golay's vehicle. Once in the vehicle, Burroughs told Golay to "go" because she "knew the $50.00 bill" that she had given to Bair "was fake." Tr. Vol. I p. 127.

         [¶4] Bair followed when Golay left the Village Pantry. The vehicles traveled "erratically" and at a high rate of speed. While Bair was following Golay, Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Grahm Selm received a dispatch from the Union County Sheriff's Department that two white vehicles traveling southbound on State Road 27 were traveling at a high rate of speed, passing multiple vehicles at once, blocking oncoming traffic, and making the oncoming traffic go onto the shoulder. Officer Selm observed the two vehicles near Liberty and started following them. Both vehicles turned westbound onto State Road 44 towards Connersville. Officer Selm continued to follow the vehicles, at one point reaching 100 miles per hour. The vehicles were eventually stopped on 5th Street in Connersville by Connersville Police Officers, including Officer Brad Rosser.

         [¶5] Recognizing that his vehicle was about to be stopped by police, Richardson threw a baggie containing capsules of heroin and cocaine to Bair and instructed her to hide the drugs. Bair complied by putting the baggie containing the drugs "inside" her. Tr. Vol. I p. 151. Also at Richardson's instruction, Bair's friend put a baggie containing marijuana "inside" her. Tr. Vol. I p. 152.

         [¶6] Once the vehicles had been stopped, Officer Rosser searched the vehicle in which Burroughs had been a passenger. During the search, he found a coat that had twenty-three capsules in the pocket. Subsequent testing revealed that the capsules contain heroin. After Bair was arrested and transported to the Fayette County Jail, she removed the baggie containing the capsules of heroin and cocaine from her vagina.

         [¶7] On December 4, 2015, the State charged Richardson with Level 2 felony dealing in a narcotic drug, Class A misdemeanor dealing in marijuana, and Class B misdemeanor visiting a common nuisance. Prior to trial, the State dismissed the dealing-in-marijuana and visiting-a-common-nuisance charges and amended the remaining dealing charge to a Level 3 felony. At the conclusion of trial, the jury returned guilty verdicts for the lesser-included offenses of Level 4 and Level 5 felony dealing in a narcotic. The trial court entered judgment on the Level 4 dealing charge and sentenced Richardson to a ten-year term of imprisonment.

         Discussion and Decision

          I. Jury Selection

         [¶8] "Purposeful racial discrimination in selection of the venire violates a defendant's right to equal protection because it denies him the protection that a trial by jury is intended to secure." Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 86 (1986). "The exclusion of even a sole prospective juror based on race, ethnicity, or gender violates the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause." Addison v. State, 962 N.E.2d 1202, 1208 (Ind. 2012).

         [¶9] "A defendant's race-based Batson claim involves a three-step process." Id. "At the first stage the burden is low, requiring that the defendant only show circumstances raising an inference that discrimination occurred." Id. "This is commonly referred to as a 'prima facie' showing." Id.

         [¶10] At the second stage, "the burden shifts to the prosecution to offer a race-neutral basis for striking the juror in question." Id. at 1209 (internal quotation omitted). "Unless a discriminatory intent is inherent in the prosecutor's explanation, the reason offered will be deemed race neutral." Id. (internal quotation omitted). "Although the race-neutral reason must be more than a mere denial of improper motive, the reason need not be particularly persuasive, or even plausible." Id. (internal quotation omitted). "At this second step of the inquiry, the issue is the facial validity of the prosecutor's explanation. Unless a discriminatory intent is inherent in the prosecutor's explanation, the reason offered will be deemed race neutral." Purkett v. Elem, 514 U.S. 765, 768 (1995) (per curiam) (internal brackets and quotation omitted).

         [¶11] At the third stage, the trial court must determine whether, in light of the parties' submissions, the defendant has shown purposeful discrimination. Cartwright v. State, 962 N.E.2d 1217, 1221 (Ind. 2012). "The trial court, not the appellate court, is in the best position to consider the juror's demeanor, the nature and strength of the parties' arguments, and the attorney's demeanor and credibility." Blackmon v. State, 47 N.E.3d 1225, 1234 (Ind.Ct.App. 2015). "The issue is whether the trial court finds the prosecutor's race-neutral explanation credible." Roach v. State, 79 N.E.3d 925, 929 (Ind.Ct.App. 2017). "Although the burden of persuasion on a Batson challenge rests with the party opposing the strike, the third step-determination of discrimination-is the 'duty' of the trial judge." Cartwright, 962 N.E.2d at 1221 (internal citations omitted). "The trial court evaluates the persuasiveness of the step two justification at the third step." Id. "It is then that implausible or fantastic justifications may (and probably will) be found to be pretexts for purposeful discrimination." Id. (internal quotation omitted). "Also, at the third stage, the defendant may offer additional evidence to demonstrate that the proffered justification was pretextual." Id.

         [¶12] In this case, at the first stage, it is undisputed that Richardson made a prima facie case that the State's peremptory challenge suggested an inference of discrimination because the potential juror was the only African-American member of the venire. See id. at 1222 (noting that removal of the only African-American juror that could have served on the jury is sufficient to establish a prima facie case under Batson). The first stage was therefore satisfied, and the burden then shifted to the State to present a race-neutral reason for striking the potential juror.

         [¶13] As for the second stage, the record reveals that during voir dire, the potential juror indicated that she liked to read and watch television. When asked what she liked to read and watch, the potential juror indicated "stories about the law." Tr. Vol. I p. 62. She indicated that she "really like[d] Law & Order" and had "seen every episode of Perry Mason." Tr. Vol. I p. 62. The potential juror then told the deputy prosecutor that she thought "beyond [a] reasonable doubt" meant "[t]hat you have sufficient evidence to convince us that your case is bigger than the other persons in that this person is guilty." Tr. Vol. I p. 62. The deputy prosecutor responded by clarifying that the jurors "will not be comparing cases … [t]hats not how a criminal case works" and informed the venire that she, as the State's representative, had the "burden to prove each of the elements of the crime charged." Tr. Vol. I pp. 62, 63. In explaining her desire to strike the potential juror, the deputy prosecutor indicated that she observed the potential juror (1) enjoys reading and watching books and programs that are law-related, (2) to be aggressive and dominant, and (3) to have dominant body language. Defense counsel responded, stating "Judge, (inaudible) her ...


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