Wednesday, April 20, 2016
A case out of Indiana shows how lividity and the Brady doctrine can intersect in a given case. In Prewitt v. State, 819 N.E.2d 393 (Ind.App. 2004), Nancy Prewitt was convicted of the murder of her husband, William Davies. The State's theory of the case was that Prewitt fatally shot Davies inside their home. However,
just prior to trial, Rodney Cullison went to Trooper Eslinger's house, where he told Trooper Eslinger that he had heard that [Prewitt's son Matthew] Hunter and a friend had moved Davies's body from the outside to the inside of the residence on the night of the death. Detective Hoskins then apparently told Trooper Eslinger that such evidence was inconsequential because Davies “died inside the house, was shot inside the house.”
After she was convicted, Prewitt learned of Cullison's statement and appealed, claiming that the State violated the Brady doctrine by failing to turn over his statement. According to the Court of Appeals of Indiana,
we address Prewitt's Brady claim as to the State's suppression of evidence regarding the purported testimony from Cullison that Davies's body had been moved from the outside to the inside the residence. Again, the record shows that Trooper Eslinger reported the information he had received from Cullison to Detective Hoskins....However, Detective Hoskins told Trooper Eslinger that it was “impossible because [Davies] died inside the house, was shot inside the house.”...
We reject the State's contention that the statement made by Cullison did not constitute suppressed “material” evidence. The question as to whether Davies's body had been moved was one that her defense counsel had entertained before trial. In particular, the photographs of Davies's body “reflected lividity high on the back whereas in the photographs he is leaning in a fairly upright position against the bathroom counter, which should not have resulted in lividity in the upper portions of the back.”...A former Marion County homicide detective shared defense counsel's concerns with lividity....Again, the photographs taken at the crime scene demonstrated that the blue jeans that Davies had worn were “pulled down to his hips in a fashion that counsel thought would have been consistent with the body having been dragged by the shoulders backwards so that the pants would have been lower on the buttocks than they would normally have been.”...There was also a towel that had been placed across Davies's arms following the shooting that no one could explain, which Prewitt's counsel stated might have been consistent with the body being moved. Finally, defense counsel believed that the location of the spent shell casing may have been consistent with the body being moved....Also, discerning whether the body had been moved was rendered more difficult because no good photos were taken of the carpeting from the bedroom to the bathroom where the body was found and no luminol was placed on that carpet to determine if blood was present.
Finding that this was part of "a pattern of withholding exculpatory and material evidence from a defendant prior to trial," the court granted Prewitt a new trial.