ILNews

Life sentence upheld for man who killed neighbor

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The Indiana Supreme Court rejected a man’s claims that certain photos of a murder victim should not have been admitted at his trial. The justices upheld Tyrice Halliburton’s life without parole sentence for the murder of Sheena Kiska.

Police found Kiska dead in her apartment in March 2008. She had been stabbed multiple times and also suffered blunt-force injuries. Halliburton became a suspect after he told police he saw another resident murder Kiska, providing details that would have been impossible from his vantage point. Police also found Kiska’s DVD player in his car that had been taken from her apartment a month before the murder. His girlfriend, Nicole DeFronozo, also revealed that she knew in 2008 that Halliburnton had killed Kiska but remained quiet for more than three years.

The state sought life without parole after alleging Halliburton intentionally killed Kiska while committing or attempting to commit burglary. He was convicted in 2012.

Halliburton appealed, arguing the trial court erred in admitting certain photographs and the testimony of his girlfriend’s mother, and that the trial court’s limiting instruction was erroneous.

Halliburton only objected to the admission of a few of the 27 pre- and post-autopsy photos; his remaining claims on appeal are based on fundamental error. The justices rejected his claims finding the photos did not serve to inflame the emotions of the jury but showed her injuries or how her body was found.

They also found no fundamental error in the introduction of testimony from Cynthia Bollenbaugh, DeFronzo’s mother. She testified that she urged her daughter to tell the truth when she learned of Halliburton’s involvement in the murder. She was not testifying as to whether DeFronzo had testified truthfully, as he claimed, so there was no violation of Ind. Evid. Rule 704(b).  

The justices did agree that the limiting instruction given by the judge regarding DeFronzo’s testimony was given in error.

“Here the instruction did not imply that the trial court had formed an opinion on the credibility of a witness or the weight the jury was to give the witness’ testimony. However, the instruction nonetheless advised the jury that the trial court had made a preliminary determination that the testimony the jury was about to hear is ‘relevant’ and that the trial court had made a preliminary determination that the probative value of such testimony ‘outweighs any prejudice there may be.’ Although appropriate as an evidentiary ruling, the highlighted portion of the limiting instruction should not have been read to the jury in that it had no role in the matter,” Rucker wrote in Tyrice J. Halliburton v. State of Indiana, 20S00-1206-LW-560.

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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