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Payne v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

May 15, 2019

Jesse L. Payne, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Parke Circuit Court The Honorable Sam A. Swaim, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 61C01-0505-FB-79

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Stacy R. Uliana Bargersville, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Ian McLean Supervising Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          NAJAM, JUDGE.

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] In Barcroft v. State, 111 N.E.3d 997, 1002-06 (Ind. 2018), the Indiana Supreme Court held that a fact-finder's conclusion that a criminal defendant was sane at the time of the commission of an offense could be supported by circumstantial demeanor evidence[1] alone, even if the unanimous opinion of three court-appointed mental-health experts was that the defendant was suffering from a delusional psychosis at the time of the offense and that the circumstantial demeanor evidence was consistent with the defendant's delusions. In this appeal, Jesse L. Payne, a diagnosed schizophrenic who has suffered from delusions and hallucinations for a substantial part of his life, asserts that the State failed to present sufficient evidence to show that he was sane at the time he burned down two covered bridges in Parke County and attempted to burn down a third. In particular, he argues that the unanimous opinion of three court-appointed mental-health experts was that he was not sane at the time of the offenses and that the State's circumstantial demeanor evidence was not probative of his sanity because that evidence was consistent with Payne's delusions.

         [¶2] Following Barcroft, we hold that the State's circumstantial demeanor evidence of Payne's behavior before, during, and after his offenses is sufficient to support the fact-finder's conclusion that Payne was sane at the time of those offenses, notwithstanding the unanimous opinion to the contrary by the three court-appointed mental-health experts, and Payne's arguments on appeal are merely requests for this Court to reweigh the evidence, which we cannot do. We also reject Payne's other arguments in this appeal. Accordingly, we affirm his convictions for two counts of arson, one count of attempted arson, and for being an habitual offender, and we also affirm Payne's aggregate sentence of ninety years in the Department of Correction.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] In 2002, the Jeffries Ford Covered Bridge in Parke County burned down. The first Parke County firefighters to arrive at the scene got there less than five minutes after the fire had been reported. When they arrived, however, the "entire bridge was on fire" and "the south span was already collapsed" into the creek below. Tr. Vol. 4 at 10. Subsequent investigation ruled out natural causes for the initiation of the fire and determined that "an ignitable liquid" had likely been used to burn down the bridge. Id. at 25.

         [¶4] In April of 2005, Kristopher Bunting stayed at the Lighthouse Mission in Terre

         Haute for a time. During that time, Payne, who was out on parole, also stayed at the Lighthouse Mission. Around April 24, comments Payne made led Bunting to conclude that Payne "had a lot of hate," especially toward "Parke County." Id. at 38. Bunting also observed Payne reading numerous law-related books. Bunting was not comfortable being around Payne.

         [¶5] At the Lighthouse Mission, Payne shared a room with David Nolan. In the evening hours of April 27, Payne asked Nolan "where the Mill Dam was," and Nolan told Payne that it was a little ways "up north" in Bridgeton. Id. at 48. Payne then "took off." Id. The Bridgeton Covered Bridge was "very close" to the mill dam. Id. at 11.

         [¶6] That same evening, Jason Doddridge was working at a Jiffy Mini Mart in northwest Terre Haute. Shortly after Payne left the Lighthouse Mission, Doddridge observed Payne enter the Mini Mart and purchase one two-liter bottle of soda and prepay for one gallon of gasoline. Doddridge then observed Payne exit the store and "dump[] the soda from the bottle." Id. at 67. Doddridge also noted that Payne "did not pump a full gallon" of gasoline. Id. Not long thereafter, a little past midnight on April 28, Michael Long drove through Bridgeton and observed a red Honda parked near a vending machine just south of the Bridgeton Covered Bridge, which stood out to Long as "not typical for the town of Bridgeton." Id. at 71.

         [¶7] At 12:42 a.m. on April 28, Parke County firefighters received a report that the Bridgeton Covered Bridge was on fire. The first firefighters to arrive at the bridge got there "less than a minute" after the fire had been reported, but the bridge was already "fully engulfed." Id. at 12. The Parke County Sheriff's Department then instructed "the full-time deputies . . . to check bridges" elsewhere in Parke County. Id. at 84.

         [¶8] Meanwhile, in the early morning hours of April 28, Samantha Hill, an employee of the BP gas station in Groveland, observed Payne enter the store. Payne purchased one two-liter bottle of soda and "some gas." Id. at 80. Hill then observed Payne "[p]our[] . . . out" the two-liter bottle of soda and the put "gas in the two[-]liter" bottle. Id. at 81. Payne then left.

         [¶9] Around 1:40 a.m., Parke County Sheriff's Deputy Mike Watts went to Mansfield, which is between Bridgeton and Groveland, "to check the covered bridge there." Id. Deputy Watts observed Payne near the Mansfield Covered Bridge and asked Payne for his identification. Payne immediately responded that he "had a receipt to show where he had been." Id. at 85. Payne also volunteered that "he had a bottle of gasoline in his vehicle," a nearby red Honda. Id. at 86. Deputy Watts observed that Payne was not "nervous at all" and did not present himself in a manner that suggested to Deputy Watts that Payne may have suffered from mental illness. Id. at 94.

         [¶10] Parke County Sheriff's Deputy Eddie McHargue joined Deputy Watts shortly after Deputy Watts had arrived in Mansfield. Deputy McHargue "didn't see any problems with [Payne] at all" that suggested Payne may have suffered from mental illness. Id. at 117. Deputy McHargue read Payne his Miranda warnings and then inquired about Payne's recent routes of travel. Payne responded by saying that he had left Terre Haute to camp at Raccoon Lake and needed some gasoline for a campfire, and so Payne went to a nearby gas station, in Groveland, to get that gasoline, which he put in a two-liter bottle. Payne further responded that, after having obtained that gasoline, he decided not to camp at Raccoon Lake after all, that he wanted a soda, and that he knew there was a vending machine near the Mansfield Covered Bridge.

         [¶11] When asked why he did not get his gasoline at a more convenient gas station in Rockville given Payne's described route of travel, Payne said that he must not have seen any open gas stations in Rockville. When asked why he went out of his way to go to Mansfield for a soda, Payne simply said "he knew there was a pop machine" there. Id. at 104. And when Deputy McHargue asked Payne how Payne had navigated around some construction on Payne's described route of travel, which construction did not in fact exist, Payne gave an explanation for navigating around the nonexistent construction.

         [¶12] Deputy McHargue informed Payne that he did not think Payne was "being truthful," and he asked Payne if Payne would submit to a polygraph examination. Id. at 108. Payne agreed and the officers immediately escorted him to a nearby police station where Parke County Sheriff Charles L. Bollinger administered the test. Following that examination, Sheriff Bollinger concluded that Payne had exhibited a "strong likelihood of deception" and "untruthfulness." Id. at 154. Officers then detained Payne in the Parke County Jail on a parole hold. Less than one week later, Payne agreed to take an additional polygraph examination regarding the Jeffries Ford Covered Bridge fire in 2002. However, before that examination commenced, Payne admitted to having started that fire as well as having set fire to the Bridgeton Covered Bridge.

         [¶13] The State charged Payne with arson of the Jeffries Ford Covered Bridge, arson of the Bridgeton Covered Bridge, attempted arson of the Mansfield Covered Bridge, and for being an habitual offender. At his ensuing jury trial, Payne asserted the defense of insanity. Dr. Ashan Mahmood, a court-appointed psychiatrist, reviewed Payne's lengthy medical history, the police reports of the incidents in question, and the probable cause affidavit. He also interviewed Payne. Dr. Mahmood testified that "the records have been quite consistent in a long[-]term mental illness with a similar pattern of delusions, hallucinations, [and] non-adherence to medications[ and] requirement[s] of treatment." Tr. Vol. 5 at 74-75. Dr. Mahmood further testified that Payne's mental illness and symptoms have been "prevalent." Id. at 75. He then testified that he had diagnosed Payne with "schizophrenia" with "prominent delusions[ and] hallucinations," which illness had prohibited Payne from appreciating the wrongfulness of his arsons and attempted arson. Id. at 92.

         [¶14] Dr. Jeffrey Huttinger, a court-appointed psychologist, similarly reviewed Payne's long medical history and Payne's "interact[ion] with the officers." Id. at 112. Dr. Huttinger also interviewed Payne. Like Dr. Mahmood, Dr. Huttinger testified that he had diagnosed Payne with "schizophrenia, paranoid type" at the time of the arsons and attempted arson, and Dr. Huttinger testified that Payne's illness prohibited Payne from appreciating the wrongfulness of his conduct at those times. Id. at 99-102. Dr. Huttinger further testified that Payne's demeanor near the time of the 2005 crimes-including "leaving suddenly from the Mission house . . ., purchasing gas[, ] and . . . when he interacted with the police officers," and also including Payne having a "plan" for the crimes and an apparent cover story ready-would not be inconsistent with schizophrenia if those acts were "driven by some type of delusion." Id. at 112-18. As Dr. Huttinger explained, "sometimes schizophrenics . . . can make rational decisions even though they are . . . going through a . . . psychosis . . . . [T]hey can look like they are doing okay" but under proper questions and examination a professional might discover that there are "more bizarre" thoughts at issue. Id. at 118.

         [¶15] Payne and the State also jointly stipulated to the admission of a report by Dr.Rebecca Mueller, a court-appointed psychiatrist. Dr. Mueller reviewed the charging information, the probable cause affidavit, and Payne's medical history. She also interviewed Payne. According to Dr. Mueller's report, at the time of the offenses Payne suffered from schizophrenia; he "had extended periods of time where he experienced auditory and/or visual hallucinations[] and delusions"; he was "insane at the time of the alleged offenses"; and he "was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct at the time of the alleged offenses." Ex. Vol. 7 at 125-26 (emphases removed).[2] No other experts testified or provided other evidence for or against Payne's insanity defense.

         [¶16] The jury rejected Payne's insanity defense and instead found Payne guilty but mentally ill[3] for the arson of the Jeffries Ford Covered Bridge, the arson of the Bridgeton Covered Bridge, and the attempted arson of the Mansfield Covered Bridge. The jury also found Payne to be an habitual offender. The trial court entered its judgment of conviction accordingly, and, following a separate hearing, the court sentenced Payne to an aggregate term of ninety years in the Department of Correction. This appeal ensued.

         Discussion and Decision

         Issue One: ...


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