The Indiana Supreme Court on Wednesday concluded that based on circumstantial evidence, a jury could have reasonably found a northern Indiana man guilty but mentally ill of attempted murder, despite testimony from experts that the man was insane at the time of the 2004 shootings.
Donald W. Myers III has paranoid schizophrenia and has been treated for mental health issues for many years. In 2004, he shot at several cars along U.S. 20, including a police officer. He was eventually apprehended after hiding in a wooded area.
Myers was psychologically evaluated and not found competent to stand trial until 2013. He was found guilty but mentally ill on four counts of Class A felony attempted murder and sentenced to a total of 120 years.
He appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed, finding the jury clearly erred in rejecting his insanity defense and that admission of evidence regarding Myers’ post-arrest silence and request for counsel violated his constitutional due process rights.
In Donald W. Myers, III v. State of Indiana
, 76S03-1407-CR-493, the majority on the Supreme Court reinstated Myers’ convictions and sentence. Referencing Galloway v. State
, 938 N.E.2d 699, 709 (Ind. 2010), Justice Steven David noted that this case is distinguishable. Myers also had a long history of mental illness but seemed to be better coping with it in recent years and apparently did not suffer from delusions. And while the experts testified that Myers was insane at the time of the shootings, those evaluations came months or years after the event. David wrote that based on circumstantial evidence presented, it would be possible for a jury to conclude that Myers was able to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct at the time of the offense. That evidence includes that he told his mother he did not want to talk to police and he wanted an attorney to sue the officers, he refused to obey orders from police, and he told police he could not put both hands up because he had been shot.
The majority also rejected his due process violation argument, based on his discussion with his mother about wanting an attorney and not talking to the police.
“Since there is no indication that Myers was advised of his Miranda rights or that he clearly invoked those rights in response to a custodial interview, we cannot hold that the admission of testimony at trial or the prosecution’s closing statements regarding Myers’ post-arrest silence and request for an attorney violated his constitutional right to due process. Absent a constitutional violation, the evidence of Myers’ preference not to speak to police and confused request for an attorney are relevant to his sanity,” David wrote.
The majority also affirmed his sentence, noting the multiple victims, including a young child and a police officer.
Justice Robert Rucker dissented, noting that the majority opinion retreats from and undermines Galloway. He sees no difference between Myers’ case and Galloway, so Myers’ convictions should be reversed. Rucker did not believe the probative evidence outside of the experts’ testimony supported affirming the convictions.
Myers remains institutionalized in a secure facility within the state’s mental health system.