COA upholds conviction for murder, attempted murder of unarmed men

A man convicted for murdering one man and nearly killing another was denied relief from his 85-year sentence when the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed there was no error in the admission of a witness’s recorded statement or notated photo lineup.

Nicholas “Freaky” Pelissier was charged with the murder and attempted murder of two unarmed men after they were shot and killed in November 2016. Pelissier was a back-seat passenger of an SUV that followed the two men down a street after seeing them leave a gas station.

As the two men turned the corner to walk down another street, they noticed the SUV was following them. The SUV then stopped, the two back doors opened, and shots were fired, killing one man and paralyzing the other. 

Kendall Vaughn, another occupant of the SUV, later identified Pelissier as one of the shooters during an interview with police. Vaughn wrote on a photographic lineup next to Pelissier’s picture, “kill[ed] the boy.” Jondell Golinda was found shot to death near the scene; Timothy Fryerson was shot and critically injured, but survived.

During a jury trial, Pelissier objected to the admission of a video recording of Vaughn’s statements to police, as well as the photo array in which Vaughn had identified Pelissier as the shooter. During Vaughn’s testimony, Pelissier moved for a mistrial, moved to exclude evidence, and asked to be able to depose Vaughn, but the trial court denied all three requests.

The jury ultimately found Pelissier guilty of murder and Level 1 felony attempted murder, sentencing him to an aggregate 85 years in prison.

On appeal, Pelissier argued the trial court abused its discretion in admitting both the recorded statements and photo array, also alleging that his sentence was inappropriate. But an appellate court disagreed in Nicholas Pelissier v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-710.

First, the appellate court disagreed with Pelissier’s reliance on Ballard v. State, 877 N.E.2d 860, 862 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007), finding that the inadmissible statement in Ballard was written down, while Vaughn’s statement was videotaped.

It also noted that Vaughn never indicated that what he said regarding the shooting incident was not true, and that part of his statement indicated that he was telling the truth, unlike the testimony of the victim in Ballard.

“Additionally, Pelissier’s fingerprint was found on one of the rear doors of the SUV, and one of the victims testified that the shooters both came out the rear doors of the SUV,” Judge Melissa May wrote for the unanimous court. “Based thereon, we conclude that any error in the admission of Vaughn’s videotaped statements was harmless because the evidence in question was cumulative of other properly-admitted evidence.”

The appellate court further found that any error in the admission of the photo lineup was harmless for the same reasons, and that Pelissier’s sentence was not inappropriate in the light of the nature of the offense and his character.

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