Admitting evidence of ‘signature’ crime was harmless error

August 31, 2015

The Indiana Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed the conviction of a man who broke into a woman’s home, severely beat her and attempted to rape her. Evidence that the man looked into the window of another woman in the neighborhood 57 days later should not have been admitted at his trial, but the error was harmless in light of DNA evidence connecting the man to the crime.

The panel did, however, trim 30 years off Caldwell’s 100-year sentence on double-jeopardy grounds.

Anthony Lamar Caldwell was convicted by jury of Class A felony burglary and Class A felony attempted rape and sentenced in Floyd Superior Court for a break-in and assault that took place in 2003. Blood found at the scene was connected to Caldwell four years later, but he wasn’t arrested until 2013.

Authorities introduced evidence of Caldwell’s alleged peeping, and the trial court admitted it over Caldwell’s objection. The court admonished the jury that under Evidence Rule 404(b), that evidence could be considered only for identification purposes.

“We agree with Caldwell that the attempted rape of L.C. and the peeping incident at J.H.’s house are generally similar, but not strikingly similar,” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the panel, citing the standard for an exception for evidence of prior bad acts under 404(b) in Allen v. State, 720 N.E.2d 707 (Ind. 1999).

The COA found that the 100-year sentence imposed violated double-jeopardy protections because both counts as Class A felonies were elevated due to the deadly force nature of the injuries Caldwell inflicted on his victim.

“Because both enhancements were based on the same facts, we reduce Caldwell’s burglary conviction to a Class B felony,” Vaidik wrote for the panel in Anthony Lamar Caldwell v. State of Indiana,  22A01-1411-CR-479.  

“We therefore remand this case to the trial court with instructions to enter a new judgment of conviction and abstract of judgment reflecting that Caldwell’s burglary conviction is a Class B felony and his sentence for that count is twenty years, for a new aggregate term of seventy years.”  




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