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Seizure of man’s clothing from hospital not unconstitutional

May 22, 2014

A detective’s seizure of a bag of clothing worn by a man who was shot – and later considered a suspect in a murder – and the admission of that clothing into evidence did not violate the man’s federal or state constitutional rights, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded Thursday.

Julian Tuggle was admitted to the hospital suffering from gunshot wounds. When police arrived to interview him about the shooting, he told them he was a victim of an armed robbery and shooting. The detective took Tuggle’s clothing that he wore when he was shot to the crime lab in accordance with police procedure.

But Tuggle was actually shot during a confrontation involving several men at an Indianapolis apartment complex that left one man dead. Tuggle later became a suspect in that murder, and police performed DNA testing after obtaining a warrant. He was tried, convicted and sentenced for murder.

Tuggle argued the trial court should not have admitting the clothing the police seized from the hospital room into evidence, which contained the blood of the murder victim. The Court of Appeals noted that the detective didn’t search or test the clothing until Tuggle became a suspect in the murder, and he obtained a warrant prior to conducting any testing.

In addition, securing the clothing that the detective believed could be evidence in finding Tuggle’s assailant imposed no intrusion on Tuggle’s three-week recovery in the hospital. The need of law enforcement to investigate what was an obvious crime was high, the judges noted. As such, they found no violations of Tuggle’s federal or state constitutional rights.

Tuggle lied to police about his involvement with the murder, and the victim’s blood was found on Tuggle’s jeans, shirt, socks and shoes. A jury could reasonably infer that Tuggle went to the victim’s residence, fought with him and assisted another man in shooting the victim. The judges declined to re-weigh the evidence in Julian Tuggle v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1308-CR-413, and affirmed the murder conviction.
 

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