Justices reinstate murder conviction in Gary shooting based on ‘whole picture of the evidence’

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The Indiana Supreme Court bench in the Indiana Statehouse (IL file photo)

The Indiana Supreme Court has reinstated a man’s murder and attempted murder convictions related to a 2020 fatal shooting in Gary, rejecting the defendant’s evidentiary challenges and finding that “the whole picture of the evidence” supports the convictions.

Justice Christopher Goff wrote Tuesday for the unanimous court, which affirmed Marquis David Young’s convictions in Marquis David Young v. State of Indiana, 22S-CR-306. The Court of Appeals of Indiana had previously reversed his convictions.

The case began at 11:40 p.m. on May 3, 2020, at the gas station on the corner of 45th Avenue and Broadway in Gary. Young — wearing a white shirt and shoes and dark coat, pants and cap — was seen on video smoking inside the gas station store before getting into his car and driving away, passing another car with Dion Clayton, Virgil King and Ajee Spence inside.

About two minutes after Young drove away, surveillance footage captured a person near an alleyway across the street from the gas station. The person in the video crossed 45th Avenue, ran into the gas station lot and fired multiple shots before disappearing from view.

Clayton and King were each hit, and Clayton was found dead two blocks away.

As police investigated the shooting, they obtained surveillance footage showing a person in the alleyway tossing a lit object onto the ground, then running toward 45th Avenue around the time of the shootings. A search of the alley two days later recovered a cigarette from the immediate area where the lit object seen in the footage had fallen.

Meanwhile, law enforcement obtained an anonymous tip about Young, whose DNA was found on the cigarette. Police also learned that Young had searched for videos on disassembling and cleaning a Glock .40 caliber pistol in the weeks immediately after the shooting — the same caliber of bullets that were found at the scene. Also, Young’s cellphone location data had been turned off at the time of the shootings.

Young was ultimately charged with and convicted of murder as to Clayton and attempted murder as to King and Spence. During his trial, the state had argued that “the diverse pieces of evidence meshed into a coherent picture” showing Young was the shooter.

But on appeal, Young argued the evidence was not sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the shooter. The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed the convictions in May, with the majority finding the state failed to present “substantial evidence of probative value” to support the convictions.

But COA Judge Terry Crone dissented, writing that the jury was entitled to resolve conflicts in the evidence. He also opined that there was probative evidence to support the guilty verdicts.

After granting transfer, the Supreme Court looked to Crone’s dissent in reinstating Young’s convictions.

“We reiterate the point by Judge Crone, dissenting in the Court of Appeals, that the evidence of guilt reviewed on appeal ‘need not overcome every reasonable hypothesis of innocence’ to pass muster,” Justice Christopher Goff wrote for the high court. “… It is sufficient that a reasonable jury could have inferred that the defendant committed the crimes charged. We leave the weighing of all the evidence and resolution of conflicts in it to the jury.

“Because a reasonable inference that Young was guilty as charged may be drawn from the whole picture of the evidence in this case,” Goff wrote, “the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.”

Goff acknowledged there was “no direct evidence identifying (Young) as the shooter.” But pointing to Kriner v. State, 699 N.E.2d 659 (Ind. 1998), the court found that “the pieces of evidence before us here fit together into a coherent whole that incriminates the defendant.”

That evidence, Goff wrote, included video of Young at the gas station just minutes before the shooting, video of him smoking, the surveillance footage from the alleyway and the cigarette butt from the alley. The justice also pointed to surveillance footage showing the shooter wearing a light-colored shirt, dark pants and white shoes, as well as the connection between the bullets found at the scene and Young’s internet search history.

“To summarize, the jury could have reasonably inferred that Young spotted the victims at the gas station, drove somewhere nearby with alleyway access, tossed his cigarette in the alleyway, ran to the gas station to carry out the shootings, walked back up the alleyway to get away, and later looked up how to clean the weapon he had used,” Goff wrote. “His deactivated location data suggested he was concealing his activity. No single ‘smoking gun’ was presented, but we cannot say that a reasonable factfinder was unable to draw the conclusion that Young was guilty.”

Still, Young maintained the evidence left room for reasonable doubt. He pointed to three alleged failures of proof: uncertainty as to whether the cigarette collected from the alley was the same one seen in the video; differences in his appearance and the appearance of the person seen on the video; and an apparent inconsistency in two videos placing him both at the gas station and in the alley at the same time.

The high court ultimately deferred to the jury.

“We agree that the jury might have derived a reasonable doubt from the identified problems with the evidence,” Goff wrote. “But the issues surrounding this evidence presented debatable questions of fact that the jury could reasonably have determined either for or against the defense.

“And, applying our standard of review, we may not substitute our weighing of the evidence for that of the jury,” the justice continued. “Nor will we divided and conquer the evidence by interpreting each piece individually in the defendant’s favor, rather than considering the composite picture and drawing reasonable inferences in support of the verdict.”

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