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Belcher v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

December 20, 2019

Jonathan Belcher, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Lisa F. Borges, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 49G04-1710-F3-41224

          Attorney for Appellant Michael R. Fisher Marion County Public Defender Agency Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Courtney Staton Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          May, Judge.

         [¶1] Jonathan Belcher appeals his convictions of and aggregate sentence for two counts of Level 3 felony aggravated battery, [1] one count each of Class B misdemeanor battery[2] and Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement, [3]and the finding that he is an habitual offender.[4] He raises two issues on appeal, which we expand and restate as the following three issues:

(1) whether there is sufficient evidence to support the trial court's finding that Belcher understood and appreciated the wrongfulness of his conduct;
(2) whether the trial court abused its discretion in its consideration of Belcher's mental health at sentencing; and
(3) whether a 53-year-and-180-day sentence is inappropriate in light of the nature of the offenses and Belcher's character.

         We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On October 19, 2017, David Smith, a regional sales manager for a chemical coating company, flew from North Carolina to Indianapolis to assist in interviewing applicants for a position in the company's Indianapolis office. Amjad Farah, Smith's friend and colleague, traveled from the company's Michigan office to Indianapolis to also assist with the interviews. After Smith and Farah finished conducting the interviews, they went to a downtown Indianapolis steakhouse for dinner. They finished dinner around 6:30 pm and walked to Monument Circle.

         [¶3] Around this same time, Jennifer Crouch, her husband, and her children were visiting Monument Circle. They were on vacation in Indianapolis to see family and visit local attractions. Crouch's husband and children walked up the steps of the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument, and Crouch stayed toward the base of the memorial to take a picture of her family. Belcher approached Crouch and asked her what she was doing. She said that she was at the monument with her children, and Belcher said, "you don't have any kids." (Tr. Vol. II at 109.) Belcher was aggressive and his tone of voice was mean. Belcher walked away for a brief period and then returned. Belcher pushed Crouch and she fell flat on the ground. Belcher then backed up to get a running start and kicked the front of Crouch's head "like a football kickoff for a field goal kicker." (Id. at 92.) A bystander ran to Crouch, and Belcher walked around the monument towards Smith and Farah.

         [¶4] Smith and Farah were admiring the Soldiers and Sailors Monument when they heard Belcher angrily yell out "mother f[*****]." (Id. at 29.) As Smith turned his head toward the noise, Belcher punched him in the side of the head. Smith went stiff and fell to the ground. Belcher started swinging at Farah, and one of Belcher's punches grazed Farah. When other bystanders started to yell, Belcher walked away.

         [¶5] Officers responded to the scene, encountered Belcher, and commanded him to get on the ground. Belcher shouted at the officers, "this is my ship" or "get off my ship." (Id. at 146.) When officers continued to command Belcher to get on the ground, he responded "F[***] you. You get on the ground." (Id. at 132.) Belcher turned and briskly walked away from the officers. Belcher ignored further repeated directions to stop and warnings that officers were going to deploy their tasers. Eventually, an officer used a taser on Belcher. Belcher fell to the ground and resisted officers trying to cuff him, but officers were able to secure him and take him into custody. Belcher made a comment to a State Police Trooper on the scene that the Indiana State Police did not have jurisdiction over Monument Circle. Rather, Belcher asserted the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department ("IMPD") had jurisdiction.

         [¶6] Ambulances rushed Smith and Crouch to local hospitals. Smith underwent brain surgery in Indianapolis, and doctors placed him in a medically induced coma. He stayed in an Indianapolis hospital for three weeks before being transferred to a brain and spinal rehabilitation facility in Atlanta, Georgia. He was incapacitated and required around-the-clock care. He was fed through a feeding tube and received drugs intravenously. After seven months at the Atlanta facility, his family decided to cease the life-sustaining measures and Smith died on May 28, 2018.

         [¶7] Crouch was released from the hospital approximately seven hours after the incident. Crouch briefly lost consciousness after Belcher kicked her. At the hospital, she had vertigo and struggled to sit in a chair. She also sustained an eye injury. Crouch's husband had to take six weeks off work to care for her. She had balance issues that required her to use a wheelchair for a period and then a walker, and she needed to attend physical therapy. Crouch also saw a neurologist, who diagnosed her with a spinal fluid leak. Crouch thought she would need surgery to correct that leak, but it resolved itself without surgery.

         [¶8] The court referred Belcher to psychologist Dr. Don Olive to perform a competence and sanity evaluation, and he met with Belcher at the Marion County Jail on November 17, 2017. Dr. Olive reviewed records from the Marion County Jail prior to visiting with Belcher. Those records indicated Belcher's previous diagnoses included Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, and Depression. Belcher had received both inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment in the past and was released from Community Hospital North on October 11, 2017. During Belcher's interview with Dr. Olive, Belcher mentioned that he had been found not responsible by reason of insanity in a previous case. He also talked about being stuck in a computer game and being hunted by zombies. Dr. Olive concluded with reasonable psychological certainty that Belcher was both not competent to stand trial and not criminally responsible at the time of the alleged offenses.

         [¶9] Dr. George Parker, a medical doctor and professor of clinical psychology at the Indiana University School of Medicine, also performed a competency evaluation. He met with Belcher at the Marion County Jail on November 30, 2017. Belcher began the interview by asking Dr. Parker, "[A]re you from a water border or a land border?" (App. Vol. II at 83.) During the interview, Belcher repeatedly punched a code into an imaginary keypad on the interview room partition. Dr. Parker found this behavior odd because, based on his experience in conducting many competency and sanity evaluations, defendants typically do not advertise their symptoms at the beginning of an interview. Belcher claimed to be living in a video game and described the court proceedings as part of the game. He mentioned that he had been found not responsible by reason of insanity in a previous case. He also claimed to see holograms of great white sharks. Dr. Parker learned Belcher lived in a general population unit at the jail and did not cause any problems in the unit. Dr. Parker also reviewed Belcher's medical records, including a competence and sanity report he himself had prepared in 2015 concerning a criminal case involving Belcher. In 2015, Belcher told Dr. Parker that he became paranoid when he smoked marijuana without also drinking alcohol. Dr. Parker concluded with reasonable medical certainty that Belcher "may meet criteria for diagnoses of malingering, schizophrenia and/or bipolar disorder" and opined that Belcher was not competent to stand trial.[5] (Id. at 89.) Dr. Parker thought there was a possibility ...

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