A man convicted of neglect against his girlfriend’s infant daughter has failed to convince the Court of Appeals of Indiana that either insufficient evidence or the Indiana Constitution require reversal of his Level 1 felony conviction.
The case of Dylan T. Myers v. State of Indiana, 22A-CR-3022, dates back to August 2019, when appellant-defendant Dylan T. Myers was living with Megan Marshall and her children, including 3-month-old C.M.
One night after Myers returned home from work, he took C.M. into a bedroom, where Marshall’s sister, Destiny, heard the baby crying. Myers claimed he had changed C.M.’s diaper and put her to bed, but when he went back into the bedroom, Destiny said she heard C.M. whimper “like when you step on a dog.”
Myers brought the baby back out to Destiny, who observed that her breathing was labored and her leg was trembling. Marshall returned home a few minutes later and discovered C.M. limp, unresponsive and suffering from seizures.
Responding paramedics found C.M. suffering from respiratory distress and seizures, and they noticed bruising on her chest. A subsequent CT scan at a hospital showed new bleeding on the baby’s brain.
C.M. was intubated and placed on a ventilator. Doctors determined she had sustained prior bruising to her ribs, neck, chest and inner thighs, and one doctor learned the baby had fallen from the couch two days earlier.
A neurologist later determined C.M. suffered hematomas, contusions, retinal hemorrhaging in all three layers of her retina, bruising across her body and five fractured ribs.
About a year and a half later, Myers was charged with various felony counts of neglect and battery.
At the ensuing trial, Marshall testified that Myers could be “rough” with the baby, including squeezing her and dropping her onto the bed and couch. Doctors also testified that a fall from the couch would not explain the extent of C.M.’s injuries in August 2022.
Further, the evidence showed that C.M. suffers from epilepsy and developmental delays, including an inability to speak or walk independently because of her head injuries.
The jury ultimately convicted Myers on just one count, neglect of a dependent resulting in catastrophic injury as a Level 1 felony. The Montgomery Circuit Court sentenced him to 30 years.
First challenging the sufficiency of the evidence against him, Myers argued on appeal that the jury’s acquittal on the battery charges and its finding of guilty under the neglect statute, Indiana Code § 35-46-1-4(a)(1) and -4(b)(3), amount to inconsistent verdicts.
But the Court of Appeals disagreed.
“In this case, it is not known why the jury acquitted Myers of the two battery charges,” Chief Judge Robert Altice wrote. “In reviewing whether the evidence was sufficient to support Myers’s neglect conviction, it is immaterial that the jury found him not guilty on the battery counts.”
Myers also argued that the state had failed to prove that he knowingly placed C.M. in a situation “that endangered her life or health and resulted in catastrophic injury.”
But the COA pointed to testimony that C.M.’s injuries likely would have occurred between 7:15-7:30 p.m. on the night in question — around the same time Myers returned home from work. It also pointed to Destiny’s account of the evening.
“From this evidence, a jury could reasonably infer that C.M.’s injuries were sustained when Myers was alone in the bedroom with her,” Altice wrote. “Also, contrary to Myers’s contention, the evidence presented at trial supports the reasonable inference that it was Myers who injured C.M.”
Further rejecting Myers’ claim that the state failed to prove he acted knowingly, the appellate court pointed to testimony that “C.M.’s severe injuries were the result of a slam, throw, drop, or high-speed motor vehicle accident.”
“Given the brutality of the attack,” Altice wrote, “the jury could reasonably infer that Myers acted knowingly.”
Finally, Myers argued that the penalty for violating the neglect statute violates the proportionality clause of the Indiana Constitution.
The COA also rejected that argument.
“Contrary to Myers’s claim, the Level 1 and Level 3 felonies under the Neglect Statute do not have different penalties for identical elements,” Altice wrote. “That is, the offense may be enhanced to a Level 3 felony if it results in an injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes serious permanent disfigurement, unconsciousness, extreme pain, permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily organ member.
“… The offense may then be elevated to a Level 1 felony only if the defendant was at least eighteen years of age, the victim was less than fourteen years of age, and the injury — which includes paralysis or an intellectual disability — was so severe that the victim’s ability to live independently was significantly impaired for a period of at least one year,” he continued. “… In short, the State must prove additional elements and a more severe injury before a defendant can be convicted of a Level 1 felony under the Neglect Statute.
“To be sure, a goal of our legislature is to punish more severely those who inflict more severe harm,” Altice concluded. “… Because each elevation of the offense under the Neglect Statute requires an infliction of greater harm, the offenses do not have identical elements. Thus, the assignment of different sentences to those different offenses does not offend the Proportionality Clause of the Indiana Constitution.”