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Court split on whether defendant’s actions were proximate cause of injury

January 29, 2016

A divided Indiana Court of Appeals ordered a man’s Level 6 felony resisting law enforcement conviction reduced to a misdemeanor because of a lack of evidence his actions were the proximate cause of the police officer’s injury during a foot chase.

Willie Moore Jr. was stopped by an off-duty police officer working as a courtesy officer at an apartment complex as Moore and another man were walking by the complex. Officer Christopher Helmer found it suspicious that Moore was wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt when it was nearly 80 degrees outside. He began talking to the men, and Moore volunteered his name, which Helmer recognized as on the apartment complex’s trespass list.

Moore’s father, Willie Moore, had rented the apartment, but the complaints lodged by residents were against the son. As Helmer attempted to pat down the two men, Moore took off. Helmer fell and injured himself during the pursuit but caught up to Moore. Moore was convicted of Level 4 felony possession of a firearm as a serious violent felon and Level 6 felony resisting law enforcement, which was enhanced due to Helmer’s injury.

Moore appealed, raising three arguments. He maintained that the officer didn’t have reasonable suspicion to stop him, but the judges found Helmer did under both the U.S. and Indiana constitutions. Moore claimed that his Illinois conviction for residential burglary couldn’t be used to support his serious violent felon status because the statutes in the states were not substantially similar. But again, the judges ruled against Moore, noting that Illinois legal authority indicates that the state’s residential burglary statute implies the use of force, like the burglary statute in Indiana. The only difference is Illinois’ statute does not include the term “breaking” as Indiana’s does.

Finally, Moore challenged his resisting law enforcement conviction, which the majority of Judges Rudolph Pyle and John Baker reversed and ordered that he be convicted of and sentenced for it as a Class A misdemeanor. The majority did not find sufficient evidence to support the causation element that enhanced Moore’s conviction to a Level 6 felony. But they did hold there was sufficient evidence to convict him of resisting as a misdemeanor.

Judge Cale Bradford dissented as to this issue, believing the evidence was such that the trial court could reasonably conclude that Moore’s actions were the proximate cause of Helmer’s injury.

The case is Willie Moore v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1505-CR-321.
 

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