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Justices affirm death penalty for man who killed 2 children

February 18, 2015

A Vanderburgh County man convicted of the murders of his girlfriend’s eight- and five-year-old children after setting fire to his home in 2010 will remain on death row. The Indiana Supreme Court declined to reverse his convictions or revise his sentence.

Jeffrey Weisheit was convicted of two counts of murder and one count of Class A felony arson resulting in serious bodily injury for the deaths of Alyssa and Caleb Lynch. An investigation after a fire at Weisheit’s Evansville home found the bodies of the children. Alyssa Lynch’s body was found in a closet, and she had burns over 90 percent of her body. Her younger brother was found tied to a bed with a washcloth in his mouth. Railroad flares had been placed in his pants and around him.

After the fire Weisheit fled, and authorities chased and arrested him. Prior to the fire, he had made comments that he thought his girlfriend, Lisa Lynch, was cheating on him and that he would go out “in a blaze of glory.” The day before the fire he withdrew all his savings and quit his job.

The jury recommended the death penalty, which the trial court in Clark County imposed.

In Jeffrey A. Weisheit v. State of Indiana, 10S00-1307-DP-492, Weisheit raised eight issues on appeal, including challenging the evidence to convict him and the exclusion of an expert’s testimony that claimed Weisheit could live out the remainder of his natural life in prison safely and did not need to be sentenced to death.  

Weisheit sought to present testimony from James Aiken, an expert in prison administration and inmate classification, that he could be incarcerated for a term of years without harm or risk to prison staff, inmates or the general public. The trial court prohibited his testimony regarding Weisheit’s potential future classification. Whether this was an error is an issue of first impression. Precedent has only addressed the admissibility of evidence of a defendant’s past adjustment to prison life – not expert testimony on future predicted adjustment, Justice Steven David wrote.

Aiken is not an expert in predicting future behavior. Because Weisheit’s offer of proof was testimony as to his future behavior from someone who was not an expert in the field of predicting an individual’s future behavior, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding Aiken’s proposed testimony as too speculative, the justices held.

The justices pointed to a series of independent facts to support his convictions, despite no direct evidence Weisheit started the fire. Those facts include Weisheit’s comments to others that he could get rid of his girlfriend if he had to; if he found out she was having an affair he would kill her, himself and then “burn everything,” and that he quit his job and took all the money out of his bank account the day before the fire.

The justices affirmed in all other respects and held the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing him to death.
 

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