COA reverses Purdue voyeurism conviction

A man convicted of voyeurism in a Purdue University sorority house has had his convictions reversed, though the Indiana Court of Appeals held Tuesday that the man could be retried.

While Margaret Schuerger was in the shower at a sorority house on Purdue University’s campus, she noticed a man, whom she later identified as Neil Albee, standing outside the obscure-glass shower door and attempting to open the shower door. That same man later tried to enter her bedroom, and when Schuerger called the police, she told them that the suspect was not wearing a hat.

When Albee was later apprehended, he was found wearing a hat. Schuerger was not completely sure he was the man who tried to enter her shower and room, but she believed he could be the only suspect because he was in his 40s and all other people living in the area were in their 20s. After she was given multiple opportunities to observe him in different setting, Schuerger identified Albee as the man in her house.

Albee was charged with various felony and misdemeanor counts, including voyeurism and residential entry. He moved to suppress Schuerger’s identification of him. The trial court denied that motion, and Albee was eventually found guilty of felony voyeurism and misdemeanor residential entry.

On appeal in Neil C. Albee v. State of Indiana, 79A02-1606-CR-1266, Albee argued that the trial court had abused its discretion by admitting Schuerger’s pretrial and in-court identifications of him. The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed and reversed his convictions Tuesday.

Judge Michael Barnes, writing for the appellate panel, first noted that Schuerger was texting at the time she heard a noise in her bedroom and observed the reflection of a man in her mirror, and that it would be nearly two hours later before police asked her to identify him. Further, Schuerger was never asked to identify Albee in a line up, and he was the only suspect police took in custody for the case.  

“Based on the totality of the circumstances in this case, we conclude the manner in which the (Purdue University Police Department) conducted the show-ups was unnecessarily suggestive,” Barnes wrote.

“We are particularly troubled by the fact that, after Schuerger’s initial inability to positively identify Albee as the intruder, the PUPD gave her additional opportunities (to) view their sole suspect until she was able to do so,” Barnes continued. “Each subsequent time Schuerger viewed Albee, it was tainted by the suggestiveness of the circumstances surrounding the prior viewings.”

Thus, Schuerger’s identification was unreliable, and its admission during trial violated Albee’s due process rights, Barnes said. However, because the totality of the evidence was sufficient to sustain Albee’s convictions, double jeopardy does not preclude retrial, the judge wrote.

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