The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld a felony intimidation conviction against a man who threatened to cut his ex-girlfriend’s throat, finding evidence of the man’s subsequent bad acts was admissible.
In Casey L. Hill v. State of Indiana, 40A04-1707-CR-1697, Casey Hill and Jennifer Malott began a relationship in 1999 and had two children together, but the relationship began to deteriorate when Hill became physically abusive. They continued to see each other until December 2016, when the family was together at Christmas.
During the Christmas celebration, Hill became jealous when Malott received a message on her phone on Christmas morning. The situation escalated to the point of Hill holding a knife to her throat and throwing her against a wall.
Despite the violence, the couple drove with their children to visit friends in Danville, where another altercation ensued that resulted in the police being called. Hill had been living in the Danville home, but his friends kicked him out after the fight.
The two eventually parted ways, but Hill began sending threatening text messages to Malott on Dec. 26, telling her he would “cut your throat” and take her life for getting him kicked out of the Danville home. The threats continued for several days, culminating with a message on Jan. 3 that said “im coming after you today…You going to die… .”
After the threat was reported to the Jennings County Sheriff’s Department, Hill was arrested and charged with Level 6 felony intimidation. During his trial, Hill unsuccessfully sought to exclude evidence of his bad acts and threats between Dec. 27 and Jan. 3, and was eventually found guilty as charged.
On appeal, Hill argued the trial court abused its discretion by admitting evidence of his subsequent bad acts. But the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld Hill’s conviction Wednesday, with Judge Robert Altice writing that Hill admitted to threatening to cut Malott’s throat, but only because she was “good at pushing his buttons.”
“In other words, his defense amounted to a claim that although he threatened Malott, he did not really intend for her to be placed in fear of retaliation,” Altice wrote.
But Hill placed his intent at issue as early as his opening arguments, when his counsel said the state would not be able to prove the intent of placing Malott in the fear of retaliation. Thus, evidence of his subsequent actions and statements were admissible to establish that intent, Altice said.
“These facts were relevant to determining the intent behind the threats he made on December 26, 2016, and we cannot agree that such evidence was unduly prejudicial or likely to mislead or confuse the jury,” he wrote. “Accordingly, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing this evidence over Hill’s objection.”