Domestic battery, confinement convictions upheld against abusive boyfriend

A man who severely beat his girlfriend and held her hostage for several hours has lost his appeal of his domestic battery and criminal confinement convictions.

Mark Thevenot and M.B., who have a history of domestic violence in their relationship, lived together in December 2016. After a night of drinking, Thevenot became angry at M.B. for waking him up and slammed her into a glass coffee table. Shards from the table cut deep wounds into M.B.’s back, but Thevenot refused to take her to a hospital for treatment because he would “get 40 years in prison for it.”

Two days later, an intoxicated Thevenot again battered M.B., ultimately leaving her unable to feel her legs after he knocked her to the ground, kicking her and beating her with broken piece of wood. As he hit her, Thevenot said that he was beating her because she “throwed [sic] him in jail for six months, so he was going to beat six months.” 

When police arrived at the home a few days later and asked M.B. to step outside for a welfare check, Thevenot slammed and locked the door. Police and SWAT surrounded the home for several hours before Thevenot came outside. He was ultimately convicted of Level 5 felony domestic battery and Level 6 felony criminal confinement and was found to be a habitual offender.

During trial, Thevenot unsuccessfully opposed to the admission of Evidence Rule 404(b) evidence regarding his prior convictions of beating M.B. and Evidence Rule 702 expert opinion evidence regarding domestic violence. On appeal, Thevenot first argued the evidence of his prior conviction was inadmissible under Rule 404(b), but the Indiana Court of Appeals noted Thevenot himself provided the motive behind his actions as he was committing the crime when he referenced the six months he spent in jail.

The court also found that because motive serves as an exception to Rule 404(b)’s prohibition of admitting evidence of prior crimes, the Jefferson Circuit Court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the evidence of his prior conviction. 

“Nor can we say the trial court abused its discretion in determining the evidence also cleared the Evidence Rule 403 hurdle, despite the five years that passed between the first and second trials, in light of the fact that Thevenot referenced the prior conviction as he was beating M.B.” Judge Melissa May wrote for the unanimous panel. “The admission of the prior conviction is being used by the State to shed light on what motivated Thevenot to commit the current crime. It is not being used to shine a negative light on Thevenot’s character.”

Similarly, Thevenot’s Rule 702 argument failed because “there was no chance the expert could be seen as vouching for the victim,” May said.

Thevenot’s also unsuccessfully argued on appeal that prejudicial error occurred during the state’s closing argument. He challenged the deputy prosecutor’s citation to Brown v. State, 497 N.E.2d 1049 (Ind. 1986), on the issue of the meaning of “substantially interfere.” Specifically, the prosecutor told the jury that “the Court stated that the fact that the victim later freed herself does not negate the fact that the jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that a confinement took place.”

“Thevenot does not assert that statement is incorrect law or a misstatement of Brown,” May wrote. “The prosecutor made it clear she was reading from Brown, and then she discussed M.B.’s testimony about the times she wanted to escape the situation with Thevenot, but she was unable to leave.

“We cannot say the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the prosecutor to read that sentence from caselaw during its closing argument.”

The court, thus, affirmed Thevenot’s convictions in Mark E. Thevenot v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-546.

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