`

COA rejects prosecutorial misconduct argument, upholds conviction

April 20, 2018

A woman’s conviction of resisting law enforcement was affirmed Friday by the Indiana Court of Appeals, which found no error by the trial court in denying a mistrial sought by the defense for alleged prosecutorial misconduct.

Kavonya Jones was convicted of resisting and driving while suspended, both Class A misdemeanors, after she fled from police who were looking for a person believed to be Jones’ boyfriend, Tyrone Esters. Marion County Sheriff’s officers were trying to serve a warrant on Esters, and they waited in a parking lot near Jones’ house. They watched as she left in her car.

When she returned, a man fitting Esters’ description was in the passenger seat. Police pulled their vehicle behind Jones’ car and activated their emergency lights, at which time Jones fled in the car, accelerating so that “a little bit of dust kicked up,” according to the officers.

After Jones stopped after about 10-15 seconds, the officers learned the passenger was not Esters. Nevertheless, Jones was arrested, and a jury convicted her as charged.

In Kavonya Jones v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1708-CR-1950, the COA found the evidence against her was sufficient to affirm her conviction, officers had reasonable suspicion to stop Jones, and any prosecutorial misconduct did not rise to the level of fundamental error.

Jones argued the deputy prosecutor during closing arguments made four statements that cumulatively prejudiced her and warranted a mistrial.

“Jones claims that the deputy prosecutor committed prosecutorial misconduct by: (1) indicating that the State ‘would request that when you go into that jury room that you seek justice,’...; (2) telling the jury that they could ‘take [the officer’s] word for that,’ ...; (3) stating that ‘[t]he officer testified today that (Jones) had seen him before in that unmarked vehicle,’ ...; and (4) stating that ‘[n]obody was hurt when she flees from law enforcement, thankfully. But there could have been,’” Judge Cale Bradford wrote.

Bradford said objections to the first two statements were sustained and the Marion Superior Court admonished the jury to disregard the comments. As for the other two, while Jones objected, she did not request an admonishment or mistrial, raising the threshold for reversal to a fundamental error analysis.

Pertaining to the third statement, Bradford noted there was testimony in the record in which a lieutenant testified that he had driven the same unmarked car in prior interactions with Jones. Regarding the fourth statement, the defense opened the door by arguing that Jones’ flight was so fleeting that it should not matter.

“As such, we cannot say that the deputy prosecutor’s comment was improper, much less that it amounted to fundamental error,” Bradford wrote for the panel. “We agree with the State that the cumulative impact of the prosecutor’s allegedly improper statements was minimal given the evidence of Jones’s guilt. As such, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the alleged prosecutorial misconduct did not warrant a mistrial.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Recent Articles by Dave Stafford