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Wiretap evidence properly admitted at murder trial

April 29, 2015

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a man’s conviction of murdering his stepfather, finding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting wiretap evidence in which the defendant told a friend he was involved in the killing.

Andre C.T. Wells’ mother, Melissa, asked Wells to “handle the situation” after her husband, Robin, told Melissa he was going to kill Wells’ brother, A., who was home with Robin. Robin had previously consumed alcohol and smoked marijuana before making the threat. Melissa and the boy spent the night at a hotel. Wells went to Robin’s house, wrapped his hands in duct tape and beat and stomped on Robin. The man died the next day from his injuries.

Wells told his friend, Brian Thompson, that he killed Robin. Thompson later told police Wells confessed to him and Thompson wore a wire to record Wells’ confession. After Wells was arrested for the murder, he told inmate Jamaal Jefferson that he had killed Robin and wanted Jefferson to help him find someone to kill Thompson. Jefferson’s testimony and Thompson’s wire tap evidence were allowed at Wells’ trial over Wells’ objection.

In Andre C.T. Wells v. State of Indiana, 53A04-1402-CR-61, the trial court affirmed Wells’ murder conviction, finding the admission of the wiretap recordings did not violate Wells’ rights under the Fifth Amendment, Section 1, Article 14 of the Indiana Constitution or Miranda v. Arizona. Thompson visited Wells at his apartment, which was not a police-dominated atmosphere nor did Thompson in any way coerce Wells into giving the incriminating statements, Judge Melissa May wrote.

The trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of the murder plot for hire nor in admitting testimony from an AT&T network engineer regarding the location of certain cell phones relevant to Robin’s murder, the COA held. The state presented sufficient evidence to corroborate Jefferson’s testimony; it also presented sufficient evidence to prove Wells committed the murder, so any error in the admission of the cell phone evidence was harmless.

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