COA: Handgun beating straps Indy man with conviction of battery by means of deadly weapon

A Marion County man who confronted and battered another individual with a handgun will keep his felony conviction for battery by means of a deadly weapon, the Court of Appeals of Indiana has ruled.

Augustus Mitchell of Indianapolis previously lived with Vincent Starks and Starks’ fiancée. But Starks and Mitchell didn’t get along and a new roommate eventually moved into the home.

When Starks and the new roommate showed up at a relative’s home while running an errand in late 2020, Mitchell appeared and allegedly got in Starks’ face.

After Starks told Mitchell, “I don’t have time for this,” Mitchell allegedly struck Starks in the head with a handgun several times. Starks fell to the ground and the beating continued until Starks was able to get on top of Mitchell and wrestle the handgun away, according to court documents.

Police arrived and found Starks “profusely bleeding” from wounds on his head and a pool of blood on the ground where Starks had been attacked. His injuries required stitches and Starks later testified that they still caused him pain.

The handgun used in the incident was also covered in blood, and officers allegedly found Mitchell with no visible injuries. Ammunition for the weapon was also found in Mitchell’s pants pocket.

Mitchell was charged with Level 5 felony battery by means of a deadly weapon, a handgun, Level 5 felony battery resulting in serious bodily injury, and Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license.

Ammunition and photos of the weapon were entered into evidence during trial in the Marion Superior Court, but the physical handgun was not. Mitchell claimed self-defense, but the trial court rejected the claim and convicted him of Level 5 felony battery by means of a deadly weapon, a handgun, and Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license.

Mitchell was sentenced to two years executed, with both years suspended to probation.

In affirming that decision, the Court of Appeals found sufficient evidence to support Mitchell’s conviction in Augustus Mitchell v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-2722.

The appellate court rejected Mitchell’s assertions that the handgun was used as a cudgel to strike Starks and not as a firearm, as well as his claim that the state failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that the handgun was a deadly weapon.

Pointing to Ind. Code § 35-31.5-2-86(a), the COA noted that a deadly weapon under state law is defined as a loaded or unloaded firearm. As such, it decided it had sufficient evidence to support the battery conviction.

“Mitchell argues that the State produced no evidence that his use of the handgun caused serious bodily injury to Starks. The statute, however, requires only that the weapon have the ability to cause serious bodily injury under the circumstances and that the defendant had the apparent ability to seriously injure the victim with the object. The statutory language requires only that the weapon is readily capable of causing serious bodily injury in the manner in which it was used, could be used, or was intended to be used,” Judge Elizabeth Tavitas wrote. “There is no requirement that the weapon caused such injury.”

The COA also cited Barber v. State, 418 N.E.2d 563 (Ind. Ct. App. 1981) as an example of similar circumstances to the case at hand.

“The State presented evidence sufficient to support Mitchell’s conviction for battery by means of a deadly weapon,” Tavitas wrote. “The handgun Mitchell used to batter Starks was a firearm, which is a deadly weapon. The handgun was also a deadly weapon in that it was readily capable of causing serious bodily injury in both the manner in which it could be used and was used.”

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