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Appellate court affirms murder conviction; reverses on corpse abuse conviction

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The erroneous admission at trial of a statement a man made to police unquestionably influenced the jury verdicts regarding his convictions of burglary and abuse of a corpse, causing the Indiana Court of Appeals to reverse those convictions. But the COA affirmed his conviction of and sentence for murder.

In Nathan Anderson v. State of Indiana, No. 49A05-1105-CR-243, Nathan Anderson crawled through an open window and stabbed Jane Pepper numerous times, killing her. He also had sexual intercourse either before or after the murder, and he told police during an interview that his intent in entering the apartment was to rob Pepper.

A jury found Anderson guilty of murder, Class B felony burglary and Class D felony abuse of a corpse. On appeal, Anderson claimed that a buccal swab that produced DNA evidence linking him to the crime – obtained by police after he was convicted of another felony – was a violation of Indiana statute and his federal and state constitutional rights.

The COA held that the DNA evidence was obtained by “mistake,” which constitutes a valid exception to the applicable statute and federal and state exclusionary rules. But the appellate court agreed that Anderson was denied his right to counsel during questioning, and that the questioning ultimately resulted in Anderson making statements about his motive for burglary and his abuse of Pepper’s corpse. The COA therefore reversed those convictions and sentences and held that he could be retried on those charges.

The court held sufficient findings of fact support the murder conviction and his sentence of 65 years is appropriate in light of the nature of the murder.  


 

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