COA affirms escapee’s convictions, consecutive sentences

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A man who escaped in handcuffs from a police vehicle will remain in prison on escape and drug charges after the Indiana Court of Appeals determined Thursday the trial court did not err in instructing the jury or imposing his sentence.

In November 2015, Dustin Evans was stopped by Edinburgh police officers on a report of a suspicious man and was found with methamphetamine, syringes, cotton balls and white residue in his backpack. When Evans was taken to the Bartholomew County Jail, he told officers he had swallowed three bags of heroin and did not feel well.

Officer Raina Bostock then transported Evans to Columbus Regional Health, where he was treated and released. On the way back to the jail, Evans began to vomit in the floorboard of Bostock’s police vehicle, so she pulled the car over to position Evans’ head outside of the vehicle. Though Evans was strapped in and handcuffed, his legs were not retrained, which enabled him to kick open the passenger door and escape the vehicle as Bostock was attempting to merge back into traffic.

Bostock radioed for assistance, but after an hour of searching officers abandoned the search. Evans was eventually rearrested several days later and was charged with Level 5 felony escape and Level 6 felony unlawful possession of a syringe. He was found guilty as charged by a jury and was sentenced to sentences of six and two years, to be served consecutively.

On appeal in Dustin Evans v. State of Indiana, 03A04-1612-CR-2911, Evans argued the Bartholomew Superior Court committed fundamental error when it instructed the jury as to the escape charge without properly conveying the appropriate mens rea requirements. Specifically, Indiana Code 35-44.1-3-4(a) states that a person who “intentionally flees” commits the crime of escape, while the jury instructions indicated the crime was defined by “knowingly or intentionally” fleeing.  

But in a Thursday opinion, Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Riley, drawing on precedent from Ramsey v. State, 723 N.E.2d 869, 871-73, said the instructions for the escape charge “sufficiently informed the jury of the proper mens rea which the State was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.” The correct “intent to flee” mens rea was listed during the state’s closing argument, final instructions and charging information, Riley said, so the instructional error of the “knowingly” language did not deny Evans a fair trial.

The appellate court also affirmed the imposition of consecutive sentences, finding he engaged in distinct episodes of criminal conduct.

“(W)e conclude that a full account of Evans’s individual crimes can be given without reference to the other,” Riley wrote. “Because the crimes of unlawful possession of syringes and escape were two separate criminal episodes, the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it ordered the sentences for each offense to be served consecutive to one another.”

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