COA upholds admission of subsequent bad acts in domestic violence case

A trial court didn’t abuse its discretion when it admitted evidence of subsequent bad acts committed by a Fort Wayne man who continued to abuse his girlfriend after his arrest, the Court of Appeals of Indiana has ruled.

In July 2020, A.K. lived in a house in Allen County with her two kids. Rodrick Davis was A.K.’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, and the two had been dating and living together for almost three years.

Davis was staying at A.K.’s house even though she had a protective order against him that had been issued in April 2020. Davis had a key to the house but was not on the lease and didn’t pay any of the household bills.

On July 17, A.K. left her home and went to work. During A.K.’s entire shift, Davis “kept blowing [her] phone up, constantly calling [her] cell phone and … work phone … over 100 times,” and the two argued “back and forth.” Davis had been drinking heavily the night before, and A.K. testified that “his drunkness [sic] stayed with him” into the following day.

Later that day, Davis consumed alcohol at a family party, and he called A.K. “between maybe 30 and 40 times.”

After the last call ended, A.K. pulled the couch in front of her front door and told her daughter that if Davis came to the house, she and her brother should “run out the back door and run over to [a family member’s house.]”

Around 7:15 p.m. that day, Davis entered the house and confronted A.K., who grabbed a can of Mace, sprayed him in the face, then tried to push him out the front door.

After briefly leaving the house, A.K. ran back and stuck her hand in the doorframe. She sprayed Davis with Mace for 2 minutes, and he slammed the door against her hand 10 to 20 times. He then opened the front door, “charg[ed]” toward A.K. and punched her in the face.

Someone called 911, and officers with the Fort Wayne Police Department responded to the scene. An officer called for an ambulance and took photographs of A.K.’s injuries, which included a broken nose and sprained wrist.

Davis was subsequently charged with Level 3 felony burglary, Level 6 felony domestic battery, Level 6 invasion of privacy and Level 6 felony residential entry. While in jail, Davis placed more than 100 calls to A.K.’s phone — despite a no-contact order — and he spoke with her 20 to 50 times, telling her to recant.

A.K. eventually did recant and changed her account of the July 17 incident, telling the prosecutor and Davis’ lawyer that what took place was an accident, that she sustained injuries because she sprayed Davis with Mace, that Davis did not mean to hurt her and that she lied about the incident to get Davis in trouble and out of her life.

Ultimately, however, A.K. agreed to testify for the prosecution.

On April 28, 2021, the state filed a notice under Indiana Evidence Rule 404(b) of its intent to introduce evidence of two additional incidents of domestic violence that occurred between Davis and A.K.: One that occurred in April 2020 and another from December 2020.

The Allen Superior Court granted the state’s request to admit the December evidence but denied the request as to the April evidence. The court’s order provided in relevant part that the December evidence, which included A.K.’s testimony regarding the domestic violence that occurred that day and photographs of the injuries she sustained on Dec. 4, was “relevant and probative to the parties’ hostile relationship and goes to the defendant’s motive, intent, and state of mind.”

At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found Davis guilty as charged. At sentencing, the court vacated the residential entry count due to double jeopardy concerns and sentenced Davis to an aggregate of 15 years.

On appeal, Davis argued that the trial court erred when it admitted evidence of his subsequent bad acts, and that the state didn’t present sufficient evidence for his burglary conviction.

The Court of Appeals was not swayed in a Monday opinion.

“… (D)uring final instructions, the court provided a limiting instruction and advised the jury that the December 4 evidence was admitted ‘solely on the issue of the relationship of the parties’ and that it ‘should not be considered on the ultimate issue of guilt or innocence of the Defendant,’” Judge Edward Najam Jr. wrote. “… As such, we cannot say that the probative value of the December 4 evidence was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice to Davis.”

Further, Najam wrote that the extensive evidence was sufficient to sustain the burglary conviction.

The case is Rodrick L. Davis v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-2089.

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