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Dissent: ‘No evidence’ tying convicted man to crime scene

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While a majority of the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed an Indianapolis man’s trespassing conviction, another judge warned in dissent that the ruling went against the tenet of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

“We are not in the business of horseshoes and hand grenades, where ‘close’ is good enough,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote in arguing evidence was insufficient for conviction in Drakkar R. Willis v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1310-CR-854. “I am convinced the State has failed in its burden of proof and vote to reverse.”

Drakkar Willis was convicted of Class A misdemeanor criminal trespass after police arrested him in response to a security alarm that sounded at Watkins Family Recreation Center. An officer saw a black male suspect running from the business about 100 yards away, and another officer later arrested Willis.

In affirming the conviction, the panel majority judges, Terry Crone and John Baker, cited Meehan v. State, 7 N.E.3d 255 (Ind. 2014), in which DNA on a glove found at a crime scene was deemed sufficient to support a burglary conviction. The majority found physical location near a crime scene was of greater probative value than DNA on an item found at a crime scene.  

“Before Meehan, we would have agreed with our dissenting colleague and reversed Willis’s conviction for insufficient evidence. But ‘we are bound to follow the precedent of our supreme court,” Crone wrote for the majority.

In reviewing the sufficiency standard in Meehan, “we conclude that a reasonable factfinder could infer that Willis was inside the Center and knowingly or intentionally interfered with the possession or use of its property without the owner’s consent. Willis’s argument to the contrary is merely a request to reweigh the evidence, which we may not do.”

Barnes rejected the majority’s interpretation of Meehan. “I do not believe that case demands or commands that the basic and longstanding tenets of the definition of ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt’ be altered. Others may disagree.”

“A bit of review is in order. An alarm sounds, police are dispatched. While nearing the building from which the alarm emanated, an officer sees a black man running in a direction away from the building, approximately 100 yards in the distance. This man was Willis, and he was convicted of trespass. There is no evidence tying Willis to the scene.

“… The entirety of the evidence upon which Willis was convicted was the fact that he was seen running at a distance of approximately 100 yards. I am not convinced that this evidence can be construed as Willis’s fleeing from the scene of the crime. Even though we are bound to give the State a reasonable inference here, it is well-settled Indiana law that flight from a crime scene, in and of itself, is not sufficient to sustain a conviction.”

 
 

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  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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