The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the murder conviction of a defendant who killed a Bloomington man in response to a sexual assault, but found the circumstances around the killing warranted a lesser sentence.
In Michael J. Griffin v. State of Indiana, No. 53A05-1106-CR-288, Michael Griffin challenged his murder conviction and 55-year sentence for the stabbing death of Donald Belton. While at a Christmas party, the two were drinking and Belton allegedly sexually assault Griffin while he was intoxicated. Two days later, Griffin went to Belton’s house to confront him about the encounter and ended up stabbing Belton 21 times and sliced his throat.
Griffin asked the trial court to give a jury instruction on reckless homicide; it refused and only instructed the jury on voluntary manslaughter and murder.
Griffin argued on appeal that the state failed to negate the presence of sudden heat which, if found by the jury, would have reduced his murder conviction to voluntary manslaughter. But the evidence produced by the state negates Griffin’s claim that he was acting in sudden heat when he killed Belton, wrote Judge L. Mark Bailey.
He also argued that the jury could have found that he recklessly killed Belton but did not knowingly do so. The evidence shows that Griffin stabbed Belton 21 times and slashed his throat. He did not attempt to get help for Belton and fled from the scene. The nature of his conduct shows Griffin had to have some awareness his actions could result in Belton’s death, wrote the judge.
The appellate court decided to revise his sentence to 45 years given that the pervasive evidence is that the homicide was in response to a sexual assault, Griffin has no criminal history, and he received an honorable discharge and Purple Heart from the Marine Corps. They sent the case back to the trial court for resentencing.