Supreme Court upholds felony dealing conviction

The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed a man's conviction for Class A felony dealing in a narcotic drug within 1,000 feet of school property and being a habitual substance offender. The decision went against the Indiana Court of Appeals, which overturned his conviction based on lack of evidence.  

William Bowman was found guilty after a confidential informant, Ciji Angel, helped police by buying heroin from him. A buy was arranged 530 feet from a school with a minor present and the transaction happened, with Angel getting two baggies from Bowman. The first baggie was tested as heroin, but not the second as the officer said he had seen enough heroin to know that it was. The trial court convicted Bowman of the dealing charge and because of two prior drug convictions, also added the habitual offender charge. He was sentenced to 45 years combined for the two charges.

The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned the conviction finding there was insufficient evidence to support the substance in the second baggie was heroin. The Supreme Court granted transfer.

Bowman brought up five challenges to his conviction. He first said he was a victim of sentencing factor manipulation, but Justice Mark Massa, who wrote the decision, said that was inapplicable to the charges against Bowman. The police did not act outrageously at any point during the transaction. They did not force Bowman to conduct the transaction at the school, nor did they force Bowman to have a minor child present during it.

Bowman also claimed the jury verdict cannot be sustained because the state established facts for two drug deals but charged him with one. The jury had to unanimously find Bowman guilty of one drug deal and did not, he said. However, Bowman did not object to this at trial, so he waived appeal.

The trial court admitted seven redacted letters which documented his attempts to secure beneficial testimony from two witnesses, saying they were irrelevant and unduly prejudicial. The Supreme Court said it has previously ruled that threats against potential witnesses as attempts to conceal or suppress evidence are admissible as bearing upon knowledge of guilt. Bowman tried to convince witnesses to testify about false statements in the letters.

Massa also wrote the evidence was sufficient to sustain Bowman’s conviction. It did not matter that the second baggie of evidence was not tested. That one baggie was heroin, the location of the sales was within 1,000 feet of a school, a child was present, and Bowman tried to coerce witnesses was enough to find him guilty of the crime and the enhancement.

Finally, Massa wrote Bowman’s sentence was appropriate, as the trial court explained its reasoning for its sentence in clear and unambiguous language, and the ruling was supported by the evidence.

The case is William Bowman v. State of Indiana, 21S04-1510-CR-604.

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