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Spinks v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

April 23, 2019

Laketra Spinks, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Stanley Kroh, Magistrate Judge Trial Court Cause No. 49G03-1708-F5-31994

          Attorneys for Appellant Valerie Kent Boots Marion County Public Defender Indianapolis, Indiana Frederick Vaiana Voyles Vaiana Lukemeyer Baldwin & Webb Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee F. Aaron Negangard Chief Deputy Attorney General Stephen R. Creason Deputy Attorney General Samuel J. Dayton Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          TAVITAS, JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Laketra Spinks appeals her convictions for criminal recklessness, a Level 5 felony, and carrying a handgun without a license, a Class A misdemeanor. We affirm.[1]

         Issues

         [¶2] Spinks raises two issues, which we restate as:

I. Whether the trial court properly denied Spinks' request to exclude three witnesses who violated a separation of witnesses order.
II. Whether the trial court properly denied Spinks' motion for a mistrial.

         Facts

         [¶3] On July 1, 2017, Spinks, her boyfriend, and her baby went to Braids, a hair salon in Indianapolis. While waiting for a stylist, Spinks had a conversation with another customer, Robin Wilkins. A stylist, Funmilayo Clawore, began braiding Spinks' hair, but Spinks was unhappy with the quality of the braids and complained to Djenaba Sambakey, another stylist at the salon. Sambakey and Spinks argued over the braids, and Spinks slapped Sambakey's hand. Sambakey asked Spinks to leave the salon. Spinks told her boyfriend to leave with the baby and pulled a handgun from a baby bag. With twelve to fifteen people in the salon, Spinks fired the handgun into the ceiling and left the salon in a red four-door car.

         [¶4] Several people that were inside the salon called 911. One of the callers reported that Spinks left in a red Hyundai Sonata and gave a license plate number. A few minutes later, another 911 caller, Steven Dorsey, reported that a motorist had thrown a gun out of the car window in the area of the salon. Dorsey reported the vehicle's license plate number, which was very similar to the license plate number reported earlier, and Dorsey waited by the Kel-Tec .22 magnum caliber handgun, which was in the grass, until the police arrived. The license plate number reported by Dorsey was registered to a red Hyundai Elantra owned by Mishak Duzobo. Officers learned that Duzobo and Spinks were leasing a residence together.

         [¶5] At the salon, officers found damage on the ceiling, a .22 magnum caliber cartridge casing on the floor, and an unfired .22 magnum caliber round on the floor. Wilkins and Sambakey later separately identified Spinks in photo arrays as the woman who fired the handgun in the salon. Spinks did not have a valid license to carry a handgun.

         [¶6] On August 29, 2017, the State charged Spinks with criminal recklessness, a Level 5 felony, and carrying a handgun without a license, a Class A misdemeanor. A jury trial was held in May 2018, and the jury found Spinks guilty of both charges.

         [¶7] At the start of the jury trial, Spinks moved for a separation of witnesses order, which the trial court granted. The trial court ordered:

All witnesses subpoenaed in this case are to remain outside the courtroom during the trial. No witness should discuss his or her testimony, or expected testimony with any other witness. The attorneys are instructed to advise their witnesses of this order as soon as they arrive at the courthouse, if not done so already. An intentional violation could result in being found in contempt, or being excluded from testifying and the separation order remains in effect until closing arguments begin.

Tr. Vol. II pp. 6-7. There was no indication that the State's witnesses were in the courtroom when the trial court issued the separation of witnesses order.

         [¶8] After the jury was impaneled but before the opening statements or presentation of evidence, the trial court was advised by the deputy prosecutor during the lunch break that "there was likely a violation of the separation order." Id. at 21. The trial court held a hearing outside the presence of the jury and separately questioned three witnesses, Wilkins, Sambakey, and Clawore, regarding a conversation they had earlier that morning in the hallway outside the courtroom.

         [¶9] Wilkins admitted that the three witnesses discussed among themselves that morning how many gunshots they heard. Wilkins stated that she heard one gunshot but that the other two women stated they heard two gunshots. According to Wilkins, the women also saw Spinks in the hallway, and they said: "That's her." Id. at 26. Wilkins testified that she recognized Spinks "on her own" and that, at the jury trial, she would testify based only on what she observed. Id. Wilkins also affirmed that her trial testimony would not be influenced by the conversation with the other two witnesses.

         [¶10] Sambakey testified that she had a conversation with the other witnesses but denied discussing the number of gunshots or the case. Sambakey promised that her testimony at the jury trial would be based only on what she observed ...


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