Victim’s statements were dying declaration, COA rules

July 31, 2015

The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected the argument that the victim, who was shot multiple times and eventually did die, could not have made a dying declaration because paramedics repeatedly told him he would live.

Harold Bishop appealed his conviction for murder for the shooting death of his friend and co-worker Khalfani Shabazz.

Shabazz had been discovered on his porch bleeding from five gunshot wounds. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital where, while awaiting surgery, he spoke separately with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Sgt. John Maloney and IMPD Homicide Detective Mark Prater and told them both Bishop was the shooter.

He died a short time later in surgery.

Prior to and during the trial, Bishop tried to suppress the statements of Shabazz that identified him as the shooter. Bishop argued the statements were inadmissible because they did not fit within the dying declaration hearsay exception. Shabazz, Bishop asserted, did not believe his death was imminent and had not abandoned all hope of recovery. Therefore, the hearsay exception does not apply.

The Marion Superior Court allowed the statements into evidence.

On appeal, Bishop renewed his arguments against Shabazz’s statements. He contended Shabazz was told by paramedics he was going to live and his heart rate, respiration rate and oxygen levels were all normal although his blood pressure was low.

The state countered Shabazz did believe his death was imminent because he kept asking the paramedic if he was going to die. This demonstrates the prospect of death was at the center of his thoughts. In addition, Shabazz had difficulty breathing and his body had begun to compensate.

The Court of Appeals ruled the trial court acted within its discretion when it concluded Shabazz’s statements were admissible dying declarations. It affirmed the murder conviction in Harold Bishop v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1409-CR-622.

“In light of his statements, conduct, manner, symptoms, and condition, as well as the reasonable and natural results from the extent and character of his extensive wounds, the trial court properly concluded that Shabazz’s statements were admissible dying declarations,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the court.



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