A woman who fired a gun into the ceiling of a hair salon after she was asked to leave for arguing with a stylist was denied an appeal of her convictions Tuesday when the Indiana Court of Appeals found there was no abuse of discretion in allowing certain witnesses to testify in her case after they violated a separation of witnesses order.
While getting her hair braided at an Indianapolis salon, Laketra Spinks began to argue with her stylist on the quality of the braids. When Spinks slapped away the hand of another stylist she was complaining to, Spinks was asked to leave, along with her boyfriend and baby.
Before leaving, Spinks pulled a handgun out of her baby bag and fired the handgun into the ceiling, prompting several people in the salon to call 911.
A jury found Spinks guilty of Level 5 felony criminal recklessness and Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license and sentenced her to three years in the Department of Correction, but not before Spinks was granted her motion for a separation of witnesses order at the beginning of trial.
All three witnesses, including both stylists and another customer at the scene during the event, were reported as having a conversation while on break that “was likely a violation of the separation order.”
Two witnesses agreed to having a conversation but disputed whether they had discussed the case. A third witnesses denied conversing with the other witness at all. All three agreed that their testimony would not be influenced by what someone else had said, and the trial court denied Spinks’ motion to exclude them from testifying at trial but granted her leeway to cross-examine.
During cross-examination, one of the witnesses admitted to conversing about how many gunshots were fired and Spinks again requested a mistrial, to no avail. On appeal, Spinks argued the trial court erred by failing to exclude the witnesses involved in violating the separation of witnesses order, as well as its denial of her motion for mistrial.
An appellate court, however, found Spinks’ first argument to be unpersuasive in Laketra Spinks v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-1532, noting that the violation was a mistake and that it was unclear as to how the witnesses’ pretrial hearing testimony was different from their trial testimony.
The panel also questioned how Spinks was prevented from discussing or cross-examining the witnesses regarding that earlier testimony, when she did, in fact, cross-examine the three witnesses during the jury trial regarding the violation.
“We agree that the trial court’s resolution to the violation was proper and within its discretion,” Judge Elizabeth Tavitas wrote. “Notably, Spinks’ counsel did not request any contempt findings, and there is no indication that the violation was intentional.”
Additionally, the appellate court denied Spinks’ mistrial argument, finding that the facts of the case were not withheld from the jury and thus, Spinks was not placed in a position of grave peril or prejudiced in any way by the violation of the separation of witnesses order.