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COA orders retrial in self-defense case

January 1, 2007
The Indiana Court of Appeals determined a Marion County judge wrongly excluded evidence corroborating an Indianapolis man's self-defense claim and has ordered a new trial on a voluntary-manslaughter charge.

In Terrance Hood v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0703-CR-242, the appellate court reversed and remanded to Marion Superior Judge Tanya Walton Pratt's courtroom a case involving an August 2005 shooting outside a liquor store.

As Hood exited the store, a vehicle nearly crashed into him and he got into an argument with the driver. That intoxicated driver approached Hood, who reached into his minivan, pulled out a gun, and shot him six times before driving from the scene. The man later died, and Hood was eventually convicted of voluntary manslaughter and carrying a handgun without a license after a previous conviction. He received a 46-year sentence.

A key of the appeal was Hood's contention regarding excluded testimony about the driver possibly reaching for a gun at his waistline, and being drunk and "a little aggressive." The appellate court relied on a previous ruling in Brand v. State, 766 N.E.2d 772 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002) that the concept of evidentiary relevance is broad in a self-defense case, and here the trial court should have allowed it.

The testimony "would lend substantial credibility to Hood's assertions" that he acted in self-defense, Judge Mark Bailey wrote, adding that the court declines the state's invitation to apply the harmless error doctrine.

Hood also appealed the sentence, but in reversing this for a new trial, the court declined to address that issue.
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