In 3-2 split, justices deny woman’s self-defense claim in murder

An Indianapolis woman who was convicted of murder after her manslaughter plea was rejected when she claimed self-defense could not persuade a majority of the Indiana Supreme Court last week to hear her appeal.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justice Christopher Goff dissented in a 3-2 decision denying transfer in Briana Michelle Wilson v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-1987.

Wilson was convicted of fatally shooting Maurice Martinez twice in the back as he attempted to leave her apartment. Wilson said Martinez claimed that either she or her cousin, R.T., who was also at the residence, had stolen money from him, and that Martinez had threatened them.

Wilson had pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter with a maximum sentence of 15 years, which the Marion Superior Court took under advisement. At the sentencing hearing, the trial court expressed concern about whether Wilson had entered her plea knowingly and voluntarily. Called to the stand, the state asked on cross-examination, “You understand that you did not shoot Mr. Martinez in self-defense?” Wilson replied, “It was self-defense.”

“He was violating me in my own home and he also violated [R.T.] He touched on her and he threatened to kill me, and he said that I had stole [sic] eighty … dollar[s] from him which I don’t have to steal anything from no one. He pulled on my arm and he said he was going to take me out to his car and shoot me. That’s what he said and I got loose and I went and got my gun and I shot him because he was dragging me out of my house by my arm,” she said on the stand.

Judge Barbara Crawford then rejected the plea agreement and set the case for trial, leading to Wilson’s murder conviction, which was affirmed in November by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

The justices denied transfer to a total of 18 cases last week and granted transfer to one, handing down a decision March 2 in an adoption case, J.P. v. V.B., 21S-AD-90.

The full list of transfer decisions for the week ending March 5 is available online. 

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