Murder, robbery convictions upheld despite contested dying declaration

A man sentenced to more than 150 years in prison for murder and robbery convictions could not convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that a dying declaration undermined his convictions and required reversal.

Defendant-appellant Deshay Hackner — whose nickname was “Wireman” — was convicted in connection with an October 2017 incident. That month, Hackner and his wife, Toni Wilson, were sharing a house in Evansville with Diamond Oldham. Oldham’s boyfriend, William Rice, would often stay at the house.

On Oct. 30, 2017, Hackner’s friend Dewone Broomfield was recovering from eye surgery at his Evansville home. Meanwhile, Hackner and Wilson were fighting at their home. The fight continued until Hackner and Rice left the house with a pistol and a black revolver.

The two men ended up at Broomfield’s house, where Broomfield was with his girlfriend, Mary Woodruff. Shortly after the men’s arrival, Broomfield was shot three times with the pistol and Woodruff was shot twice with the revolver. Hackner and Rice fled the scene with money and drugs.

Broomfield and Woodruff did not die immediately, and when Broomfield called 911, he said “Why man” had shot him. He later told officers that he was shot by “Deshaw Hacker,” “Deshay D.,” “William Rice” and “Deshawn Hackner.” Also, Evansville Police Officer Josh Brewer later told other officers that Broomfield had shook his head affirmatively when asked, “Was it Deshay?” Broomfield’s nod, however, was not captured on Brewer’s body camera.

Broomfield and Woodruff were taken to the hospital, but neither survived.

Meanwhile, Hackner called Wilson and told her and Oldham to “pack a bag.” The four checked into a hotel, where Hackner wiped down the pistol and placed it under the bed. He then purchased two vehicles — a black Celica and a tan Lincoln — and was driving the Lincoln when officers located him.

Hackner then began a police pursuit, during which a “black object” was thrown from the window. The pursuit eventually ended with Hackner and Rice’s arrest, and three guns were found later found along the route. The pistol was also recovered from the hotel room.

At his ensuing trial, Hackner objected to the admission of evidence that Broomfield nodded his head when asked if “Deshay” shot him. The Tippecanoe Superior Court denied the objection, and the jury watched Officer Brewer’s body camera footage from the scene of the murder.

The jury then convicted Hackner of two counts of murder, two counts of Level 5 felony robbery, a firearm enhancement and an allegation that he was a habitual offender. The trial court sentenced him to 157 years in the Department of Correction.

In upholding Hackner’s convictions, the Court of Appeals rejected his argument that the admission of evidence that Broomfield nodded was “all based on an invalid dying declaration … .”

“Here, the jury listened to the 911 call during which Broomfield identifies ‘Why man[,]’ ‘Deshaw Hacker,’ ‘Deshay. D. and William Rice,’ and ‘Deshawn Hackner,’ as his shooters,” Judge Margret Robb wrote Tuesday. “… It watched the body camera footage and observed the events unfold and listened to Officer Brewer’s testimony in court.

“The extent to which the jury relies on Broomfield’s nod and accepts Officer Brewer’s interpretation, and whether or not the evidence connects Hackner with the crimes, ultimately goes to the weight the jury may assign evidence, not admissibility,” Robb continued. “… Therefore, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting this evidence.”

The case is Deshay Hackner v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-1577.

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