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COA: Gun admissible under inevitable discovery rule

April 12, 2018

A gun was admissible as evidence in a battery trial despite its location through an unwarranted search because it inevitably would have been discovered, despite any Fourth Amendment violation, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

Shortly after learning they were expecting a child, Tashala Berry and Tevin Winborn got into an argument that ended in Winborn allegedly choking Berry and slamming her into the floor. The argument resumed the next morning, with Winborn once against choking Berry with enough force to prevent breathing.

Berry escaped and called 911, then gave South Bend Police officers permission to enter her apartment, where Winborn was staying. The officers went to the apartment and arrested Winborn, who admitted to an offficer that there was a gun located in a backpack inside the apartment. Another officer, however, was unaware of this conversation and later discovered the gun as part of a search of Winborn’s things.

Thus, Winborn was charged with battery of a pregnant woman, strangulation and carrying a handgun without a license. Winborn moved to suppress the gun, but the St. Joseph Superior Court denied that motion after a bench trial and found him guilty as charged.

Winborn appealed in Tevin Dejaron Winborn v. State of Indiana, 71A03-1708-CR-1890, but the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld his convictions on Thursday under the inevitable discovery rule. Specifically, Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the unanimous appellate panel that “the backpack and firearm would have been inevitably discovered regardless of any constitutional violation.”

“Contemporaneous to the time that Officer Dertz was searching in the house, a Mirandized Winborn was telling Officer Teague in the back seat of the squad car that he had a backpack in the house and that there might be a gun in that backpack,” Mathias wrote. “Although perhaps stretched by other applications in other cases, this is a perfect example of the rationale behind the inevitable discovery rule.”

Further, because Winborn would have been allowed to gather his belongings prior to leaving the scene, police would have discovered the gun during processing, making the gun admissible under the Fourth Amendment, the court found. The appellate panel also upheld the sufficiency of the evidence against Winborn, pointing specifically to Berry’s testimony that Winborn choked her to the point of being unable to breathe and an emergency room assessment that found Berry had been “struck and choked.”

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