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Appellate court affirms murder conviction in Indianapolis shooting

July 6, 2017

A man’s felony murder conviction, stemming from a shooting he was involved in when he was 17 years old, will stand after the Indiana Court of Appeals found Thursday the trial court did not err in excluding evidence or in considering testimony.

In Terrance L. Richardson v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1701-CR-17, Terrance Richardson and three of his 17-year-old friends – Jalen Heffner, Kaylend Gilbert and Steven Kendall – were at the corner of Rural and New York streets in Indianapolis when a black car approached them. Heffner held a prolonged conversation with the vehicle’s occupant, and at one point, Kendall, standing aside with Richardson and Gilbert, lifted his shirt to reveal what looked to be a black gun.

Heffner eventually shook hands with the occupant of the vehicle, which then drove away. Heffner and Richardson then entered a nearby store, where Heffner removed a black object from his pocket and gave it to Richardson.

The four boys then walked to the parking lot behind the store, where Richardson pulled out a gun, lunged at Kendall and fired a single shot into his chest. Kendall died shortly after the shooting.

Surveillance footage allowed law enforcement to identify the individuals involved in the shooting, and Richardson was charged with felony murder. A joint bench trial was held for Richardson, Heffner and Gilbert, but only Richardson was found guilty.

On appeal, Richardson first argued the Marion Superior Court abused its discretion by excluding from evidence a Facebook message between Kendall and a third party. Specifically, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department detective Grant Melton testified that he examined a cellphone recovered from Kendall’s body that revealed a Facebook message between the user “Bandman Trapp” and another user, “Little L Mike Brookside” from a couple of days before the shooting.

However, Melton further testified he did not know who composed the message in question because anyone could sign into the Bandman Trapp Facebook account. The trial court denied the admission of the message, but Richardson made an offer to prove, indicating the exhibit would show that on Oct. 1, 2015, Kendall used his Facebook account, Bandman Trapp, to send a message to Little L Mike Brookside, telling him he intended to “rob somebody for a black gun.”

The message was not permitted to be entered as evidence, and the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed that decision Thursday, with Judge Patricia Riley writing, “Richardson did not present any evidence describing distinctive characteristics that could connect the particular statement to Kendall, nor did he present any other indicia of reliability establishing Kendall as the author of the contested statement.”

Richardson further argued on appeal that the state failed to present sufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to rebut his self-defense claim. Specifically, Richardson claimed he shot Kendall after Kendall pulled a gun from his waistband and clicked the trigger, which failed to fire because there was no bullet in the chamber.

But the trial court said a review of the surveillance tapes did not show Kendall attacking anyone or raising his hands, and that Gilbert’s testimony, which Richardson relied on for his self-defense claim, was not credible. Richardson argued on appeal that the trial court could not consider Gilbert’s testimony as evidence against him, but because Richardson relied on Gilbert for his self-defense claim, Riley said Richardson invited any error in the consideration of his testimony.

“In other words, Richardson’s entire argument is an invitation to reweigh the evidence displayed on the surveillance video and Gilbert’s credibility,” Riley said. “We decline to accept his invitation.”
 

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