Circumstantial evidence supports murder conviction

September 8, 2016

Despite not having a direct link showing Donald Burns intended to kill his 74-year-old grandmother, the Indiana Court of Appeals found the amount of circumstantial evidence was enough to support his murder conviction.

Burns appealed his conviction for murder on the grounds that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to kill Dorothy Hurd in June 2011. He argued the charge that he knowingly or intentionally killed another person could not be upheld since the cause and manner of Hurd’s death were undetermined and no formal autopsy had been performed.

The Court of Appeals rejected Burns’ argument and affirmed his conviction in Donald J. Burns v. State of Indiana, 27A02-1510-CR-1785.

At length, the appellate panel outlined the circumstantial evidence that ensnared Burns. That evidence included Hurd’s remains were found near the Mississinewa River in an area Burns knew well; Hurd left a note telling her friend she was going out that day with her grandson; later that day, Burns used Hurd’s credit card to make jewelry purchases at Walmart and sold Hurd’s wedding rings in a pawn shop; and that Burns fled when police attempted to question him.

“Although no single fact proves Burns’ intent to kill Hurd, we find that the collective circumstantial evidence was sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to infer that Burns intended to kill Hurd,” Senior Judge John Sharpnack wrote for the court. “Considering these facts together, the jury could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that Burns intended to kill Dorothy Hurd. Thus, sufficient evidence supports Burns’ murder conviction.”    


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