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Excluded witnesses, admitted photos affirmed in murder trial

January 17, 2019

A man who murdered a woman in order to rob her of prescription drugs lost an appeal of his convictions when the Indiana Court of Appeals found there was sufficient evidence and that a trial court did not deprive him of a defense.

After conspiring with a friend to rob a woman he slept with to take her pain medication, Danny Saintignon ultimately murdered Monica Brown of Muncie in the process of the robbery in December 2009.

Nearly seven years later, Saintignon was charged with Class A felony conspiracy to commit burglary resulting in bodily injury, murder, and Class B felony robbery resulting in bodily injury. He was convicted and sentenced to an aggregate 137½ years in prison.

On appeal, Saintignon argued the trial court abused its discretion and deprived him of a defense when it excluded some of his proposed witnesses. However, the appellate court ultimately found that none of Saintignon’s witnesses excluded from testifying led to the deprivation of a defense in derogation of his constitutional rights.

Saintignon additionally contended that the trial court erred when it admitted a photograph into evidence that showed what he contends were his Aryan Brotherhood tattoos. Specifically, he argued the probative value of the photograph was substantially outweighed by the prejudicial effect of the photograph on the jury.

“The State offered Exhibit 79 to show that Saintignon had a bruise on his right bicep two days after Brown was murdered. Such an injury could tend to make it more probable that he was Brown’s killer, and, thus, it was relevant to an issue at trial,” Judge Patricia A. Riley wrote for the panel. “The State did not present any testimony identifying or explaining the significance of Saintignon’s tattoos, only three of which are fully visible in the photograph.

“Because none of the tattoos clearly denote the Aryan Brotherhood, we find that the minimal, if any, prejudice to Saintignon did not render the photograph inadmissible and that the impact on the jury, if any, did not affect his substantial rights,” Riley wrote.

Lastly, Saintignon contended there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions, an argument the appellate court found to be lacking as well. Saintignon pointed to the relative dearth of DNA, blood and fingerprint evidence connecting to the crime scene, as well as his argument that the state was unable to prove property was missing from Brown’s home. But the court noted Saintignon was found in possession of Brown’s purse and gun after she was killed.

“We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it excluded Saintignon’s proposed witnesses, nor did it deprive him of his right to present a defense,” Riley concluded. “In addition, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it admitted a photograph that depicted Saintignon’s tattoos.”

The appellate court affirmed there was evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to support Staintignon’s convictions in Danny L. Saintignon v. State of Indiana,18A-CR-279.

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