Court affirms murder conviction of man who killed stepdaughter

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A southern Indiana man was not able to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that the court should overturn his convictions of murder and other charges for stabbing his stepdaughter.

Ryan Shelby raised six issues on appeal, including that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his request to view the murder scene and independently collect evidence without supervision and that the cumulative effect of several alleged errors required reversal. He sought to overturn his convictions of murder, Class D felony obstruction of justice and two counts of Class A misdemeanor false informing.

Shelby and his teenage stepdaughter Lexi got into an argument late in the evening Oct. 31, 2009, over why Shelby didn’t bring Lexi’s half-sister home from his parents' home. The two had a history of not getting along. Lexi came at Shelby with a knife, after which Shelby disarmed her and then repeatedly stabbed her in the throat and neck. He dragged her behind their home’s backyard shed, where she bled to death.

The judges found the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in denying Shelby’s motion to view the crime scene because it allowed him supervised access to the scene and allowed his defense to consult outside of the presence of the state. The order also allowed him to collect evidence.

The COA found he waived several claims on appeal, including claims that the trial court erred in failing to give certain jury instructions that he tendered, which combined with other alleged errors, should result in his convictions being overturned. He also waived his claims of prosecutorial misconduct by not moving for a mistrial or admonishment at trial. The judges also held that the fundamental error exception doesn’t apply, and they found no cumulative error.

“The trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting Shelby’s statements to the police. And to the extent that the trial court erred in limiting the testimony of Shelby’s expert witness, the error was harmless in light of the testimony that was presented by the witness,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote in the 42-page opinion Ryan Shelby v. State of Indiana, 87A01-1207-CR-313.

“Lastly, even if the trial court did abuse its discretion in failing to consider Shelby’s proffered mitigator of ‘residual doubt,’ we would not remand for resentencing because Shelby’s advisory sentence of fifty-five years for the brutal murder of his stepdaughter is not inappropriate.”



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