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Appellate court vacates murder, dealing convictions

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The Indiana Court of Appeals vacated convictions of felony murder and dealing in a controlled substance because the state didn’t prove the man was involved in the dealing of ecstasy.

Steven Hyche claimed that he was just trying to purchase ecstasy, not deal in it when the one of the men he met with to buy the drugs was gunned down during the deal. The surviving witness said Hyche was one of the two men standing by his car when he pulled up but that he never saw Hyche with a gun.

Hyche argued since he was just trying to buy ecstasy, he doesn’t fall within the legislature’s definition of a person who committed dealing and so he couldn’t have been guilty of felony murder. The Court of Appeals agreed and vacated his convictions.

The state argued that Hyche could be convicted of dealing in a schedule I controlled substance because he was involved in the delivery and financed the delivery of the drug during the deal. The judges rejected the state’s positions, finding he acted as the transferee, not the transferor.

“The fact that he called another person to request drugs no more makes him a dealer in ecstasy than it would make a customer who calls the florist a dealer in flowers,” wrote Judge Terry Crone in Steven D. Hyche v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0911-CR-1154

In addition, there’s no evidence Hyche furnished any money to further the drug dealers’ dealing activities. He acted merely as a purchaser, and not as a creditor or investor.

“As such, he could no more be deemed to be financing the delivery of ecstasy than a grocery shopper could be deemed to be financing the supermarket’s inventory,” wrote the judge.

The judges also rejected the state’s argument that there’s enough evidence to support Hyche’s guilt as a dealer’s accomplice in dealing ecstasy. Hyche just wanted to buy drugs from the dealers and even though they were all at the crime scene, they were not companions but more like adversaries, noted the judge.

“To find that his offer to purchase the drug somehow amounts to organizing, financing, or even inducing its delivery, defies logic and cannot reasonably reflect the intent of the General Assembly in enacting these statutes,” he wrote.
 

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