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Berryman v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

June 21, 2019

Alan Lee Berryman, Appellant-Petitioner,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

          Appeal from the Clark Circuit Court The Honorable Vicki Carmichael, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 10C04-1712-XP-97

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Bruce A. Brightwell New Albany, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Angela N. Sanchez Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          MAY, JUDGE.

         [¶1] Alan Lee Berryman appeals the trial court's denial of his petition to expunge the record of a case in which a jury found him not responsible by reason of insanity ("NRRI"). Berryman raises one issue on appeal, whether a judgment of NRRI is a "conviction" as the term is used in Indiana Code section 35-38-9-1. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On November 3, 2001, Berryman approached a man and his wife in a mall parking lot. State v. Berryman, 796 N.E.2d 741, 742 (Ind.Ct.App. 2003), opinion aff'd in part, vacated in part, 801 N.E.2d 170 (Ind. 2004). Berryman grabbed the man and accused him of trying to "set up" Berryman. Id. Berryman then shot and killed the man. Id. On November 7, 2001, the State charged Berryman with murder.[1] A jury found Berryman not responsible by reason of insanity, so the court entered a judgment of NRRI. Subsequently, the court involuntarily committed Berryman to a state hospital. In re Commitment of Berryman, 797 N.E.2d 820, 822 (Ind.Ct.App. 2003).

         [¶3] On an undisclosed date thereafter, Berryman was released from his commitment, and he filed a Petition to Expunge/Seal Records pursuant to Indiana Code section 35-38-9-1 in late 2017. The State filed an objection, and the trial court held a hearing on June 14, 2018. On July 17, 2018, the trial court issued an order denying Berryman's petition.[2] Berryman filed a motion to correct error on August 8, 2018. Pursuant to Trial Rule 53.3, the motion was deemed denied on September 24, 2018.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶4] Indiana Code section 35-38-9-1 allows an individual arrested for a crime, but not convicted, to seek expungement of the records related to the arrest and charge. The statute applies "to a person who has been arrested, charged with an offense, or alleged to be a delinquent child, if: (1) the arrest, criminal charge, or juvenile delinquency allegation: (A) did not result in a conviction or juvenile adjudication." Ind. Code § 35-38-9-1(a) (emphasis added). If the petitioner satisfies the conditions listed in the statute and does not have any pending criminal charges, the court "shall grant the petition." Ind. Code § 35-38-9-1(e). Berryman argues his NRRI judgment is not a "conviction" because it does not result in criminal punishment and, therefore, the plain language of Indiana Code section 35-38-9-1 requires the court to grant his petition.

         [¶5] While the question Berryman presents about Indiana Code section 35-38-9-1 is one of first-impression in Indiana, our standard for reviewing this class of questions is well settled. "Statutory interpretation is a question of law reserved for the court and is reviewed de novo. De novo review allows us to decide an issue without affording any deference to the trial court's decision." Shaffer v. State, 795 N.E.2d 1072, 1076 (Ind.Ct.App. 2003) (internal citation omitted). Consequently, "the express language of the statute and the rules of statutory interpretation apply. We will examine the statute as a whole, and [we] avoid excessive reliance on a strict literal meaning or the selective reading of words." Nash v. State, 881 N.E.2d 1060, 1063 (Ind.Ct.App. 2008) (internal citation omitted), trans. denied. If the statute's language is clear and unambiguous, we apply the clear language of the statute. Id.

         [¶6] At issue is the meaning of the term "conviction" in Indiana Code section 35-38-9-1 and, as former Chief Justice Shepard explained, "[t]he word 'conviction' is not a term of art, and its multiple definitions create some confusion." Carter v. State, 750 N.E.2d 778, 779 (Ind. 2001) (holding, in the double jeopardy context, a conviction is a court judgment, not a jury verdict). Unfortunately, the legislature did not define "conviction" in Indiana Code section 35-38-9-1 or elsewhere in Title 35 of the Indiana Code. When the legislature has not provided the meaning of a term in a statute, we may consult English dictionaries to determine a word's plain and ordinary meaning. Naugle v. Beech Grove City Schools, 864 N.E.2d 1058, 1068 (Ind. 2007).

         [¶7] Black's Law Dictionary defines "conviction" as: "1. The act or process of judicially finding someone guilty of a crime; the state of having been proved guilty. 2. The judgment (as by a jury verdict) that a person is guilty of a crime." Conviction, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014) (emphases in original). Webster's Dictionary defines "conviction" as "the act of proving, finding, or adjudging a person guilty of an offense or crime." Conviction, Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged (1st ed. 1976); see also Conviction, Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (available at https://www.merriam- webster.com/dictionary/conviction) ("the act or process of finding a person guilty of a crime especially in a court of law") (last visited May 17, 2019). Thus, in common vernacular, "conviction" is used to mean either a finding of guilt of a crime or a court judgment that leads to criminal punishment.

         [¶8] Where, as here, there is more than one reasonable interpretation of a term in a statute, we must construe the statute to give effect to the General Assembly's intent. See Nash, 881 N.E.2d at 1063. We presume the legislature intends for "the language used in the statute to be applied logically and not to bring about an absurd or unjust result." Id. Therefore, "we must keep in mind the ...


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