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Supreme Court upholds man's murder, robbery convictions

September 29, 2016

The Indiana Supreme Court has upheld a man’s convictions and life sentence for murder and robbery after the justices rejected each of his arguments alleging error on the part of the Grant Superior Court.

After learning of Duwayne Lindsey’s valuable gun and coin collections, James Griffith and his girlfriend, Lacy Bradley, planned a robbery of Lindsey’s home. After Lindsey invited them inside to look at his coin collection, Bradley bashed his head with a hammer and Griffith stabbed him in the chest with a knife while demanding the code to his safe. Each time Lindsey answered incorrectly, Griffith proceeded to cut his throat. He was found dead in his home a week later.

Meanwhile, Griffith was arrested in Kentucky for unrelated crimes, but was charged with murder, felony murder, Class A felony robbery, Class A felony conspiracy to commit robbery, Class B felony aggravated battery and Class C felony receiving stolen property in relation to Lindsey’s murder while still incarcerated in Kentucky.

Griffith chose to represent himself in the Grant Superior County trial, with a court-appointed attorney on standby, and was found guilty as charged. The felony murder and aggravated battery charges were vacated and the robbery and conspiracy convictions were reduced to Class C felonies.

Griffith appealed, arguing that he was denied due process during discovery. After he chose to represent himself, Griffith said the state violated his 14th Amendment rights by providing pictures in discovery solely on a disc that he could not access in jail.

But in writing for the court, Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush said Thursday that Griffith had “meaningful access to the courts” as the 14th Amendment requires. There was no evidence to suggest that the box Griffith received in jail – which the state claimed included all contents from the disc – had omitted anything, and that even if something was omitted, Griffith had standby counsel who could have checked for discrepancies.

Griffith also argued that he was denied his right to a speedy trial because there was a 20-month gap between his arrest and his April 2014 trial. Rush also disagreed with that point, writing that the speedy trial rule kicked in when he was extradited to Indiana in March 2013, not his Kentucky arrest in July 2012. Further, Rush also wrote that Griffith caused much of the delay by moving for or agreeing to continuances.

Griffith had also asked for public funds to be used to hire expert DNA and blood spatter witnesses for his defense, but Rush wrote that he had the burden of showing a need for such witnesses, a burden he failed to meet.

The defendant’s appeal also alleged several other errors on the part of the Grant Superior Court, including allowing witnesses to hear opening statements despite a separation order, allowing the state’s entomologist to testify and admitting evidence found in his van. Rush wrote that Griffith failed to prove the merits of each of those allegations.

Finally, Rush wrote that there was sufficient evidence to connect Griffith to the crime, including DNA evidence. Thus, all justices agreed that Griffith’s convictions should stand.

The case is James F. Griffith v. State of Indiana, 27S00-1503-LW-145.
 

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