COA: Song detailing triple-murder scene was admissible evidence

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a man’s murder convictions, finding a song he wrote and posted online that closely described the murder scene just months later was admissible evidence.

In Troy Ward v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-128,Troy Ward was convicted of murdering three individuals during a home robbery in northern Indianapolis in 2017. Ward was one of five men who invaded an apartment shared by four roommates, one of whom was known for selling marijuana and having guns and money.

After the men entered through the front door, they proceeded to steal a safe and money. Meanwhile, Ward shot one man in the head and another in the back, injuring co-perpetrator Sean Jones. All of the men fled, leaving three dead in the apartment.

As investigations proceeded, detectives reviewing Ward’s Facebook account discovered a song written and uploaded by Ward onto his SoundCloud account that narrated the story of a murder. Specifically, the song described the murderer approaching the door of the victims, entering, and shooting the victims in the head and body.

Bullets and cartridge cases recovered for the crime scene were a match to Ward’s weapon used during the crime. He was later charged three counts of murder, three counts of felony murder, three counts of Level 2 felony robbery resulting in serious bodily injury and Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license. A Marion Superior jury ultimately convicted him on all counts, sentencing him to an aggregate 180 years in prison.

Ward appealed, arguing the trial court abused its discretion by admitting the song into evidence, alleging its probative value was substantially outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice. The Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed, finding the song was highly probative of Ward’s participation in the crimes given the accurate description of the murder scene and its recording just two months after the shootings.

It likewise concluded that there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions, finding even without Jones’ testimony, an abundance of evidence implicated Ward and placed him at the scene of the crime. Two men involved in the robbery testified that Ward admitted to the murders immediately after the crime, ballistics revealed a match for the gun Ward had used in the apartment, and surveillance video from a nearby Target store linked him to the site where the men attempted to open the safe after the robbery, among other things.

“Based on the foregoing, we hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting into evidence Ward’s song posted on social media; the trial court’s questioning of a witness did not amount to judicial bias; and the State presented sufficient evidence to establish Ward’s conviction beyond a reasonable doubt,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote for the appellate court.

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