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Trial court should have booted the bloody shoe, but conviction stands

April 22, 2013

The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with a convicted murderer that his bloody shoe should not have been admitted into evidence, but the judges did not overturn the conviction, ruling other substantial independent evidence supported the guilty verdict.

Douglas Guilmette appealed his conviction for murder, contending, in part, the trial court violated Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution when it admitted the DNA evidence found on his shoe.

As part of its investigation into the September 2010 death of Greg Piechocki, the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit interviewed Guilmette twice. During these sessions, along with telling detectives he did not like Piechocki, Guilmette admitted to taking deceased’s money and shoplifting from Walmart and Meijer.

Guilmette was subsequently arrested for the Walmart and Meijer thefts. In collecting Guilmette’s clothing and shoes, an officer saw what appeared to be spots of blood on the shoes.

Without a search warrant, Guilmette’s shoes and several other items were taken to the Indiana State Police Lab for blood and DNA analysis. A red stain on one of the shoelaces tested presumptively for blood and DNA testing indicated the stain was a mixture from Piechocki and Guilmette.

The COA, in Douglas A. Guilmette v. State of Indiana, 71A04-1205-CR-250, took no issue with the police taking Guilmette’s shoe at the time of his arrest. Nor did the court find any violation from the police looking at the shoe and discovering the red stains. 

However, the COA noted because Guilmette was initially arrested for the unrelated crimes of theft, not murder, the police should have obtained a warrant before doing the blood and DNA analysis of the shoe. The court then concluded the laboratory testing of his shoe for evidence of the murder was an unconstitutional search under the Indiana Constitution.

Still, the COA found the admission of the DNA evidence to be harmless because other substantial independent evidence of guilt was offered.  

Writing for court, Senior Judge Carr Darden explained, “The DNA evidence from the shoe was not the strongest evidence of guilt. It merely consisted of testimony that a small stain on Guilmette’s shoelace tested presumptively for blood and that subsequent DNA testing gave a mixture from which both Piechocki and Guilmette could not be excluded. Moreover, the testimony of four separate and independent witnesses that Guilmette admitted killing Piechocki with a baseball bat constituted overwhelming substantial independent evidence of guilt. Thus, the erroneous admission of the DNA evidence from the shoe was harmless.”

 

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