Judges affirm convictions in fatal home invasion

September 11, 2014

The state presented sufficient evidence to support a man’s conviction of robbery, which was based on a theory of accomplice liability, the Court of Appeals ruled. The charge stems from a home invasion in St. Joseph County during a family gathering.

In December 2012, Lee Travis Griffin and four other men forced their way into the home of Kent and Sandra Price, who had relatives and friends over. The men ransacked the home, and Kent and Sandra Price were seriously injured in the incident. Sandra Price eventually died from her injuries. Police arrived while the invaders attempted to flee.

Griffin was charged with two counts of Class A felony robbery, based on the theory of accomplice liability, two counts of Class A felony burglary and felony murder. He was convicted and ordered to serve a total of 115 years.

In Lee Travis Griffin v. State of Indiana, 71A03-1311-CR-458, Griffin raised three arguments: whether the state presented sufficient evidence to support his robbery conviction, whether the court abused its discretion in showing Sandra Price’s autopsy photos at his trial, and whether the court abused its discretion in refusing to give a proffered jury instruction.

The judges concluded that the state proved that Griffin knowingly or intentionally associated himself with a criminal venture, participated in it and tried to make it succeed. It does not matter whether Griffin personally participated in each element of the offenses; the acts of his co-conspirators are imputed to him, Judge Edward Najam wrote.

His argument regarding the autopsy photo is waived because the objections he raised at trial to them are substantially different than those raised on appeal.

At his trial, Griffin proffered this instruction, “In determining whether the guilt of the accused person is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, you should require that the proof be so conclusive as to exclude every reasonable theory of innocence.” He based the instruction on Hampton v. State, 961 N.E.2d 480 (Ind. 20012), which turned on the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence.  

The proposed instruction was not appropriate because the state presented direct evidence supporting its allegations, the COA held. Griffin claimed his robbery conviction was based on circumstantial evidence, but his argument “neglects the principles of accomplice liability in his attempt to apply Hampton to his robbery conviction,” Najam wrote.



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