INDIANAPOLIS — Kyle David DeHart, 24, Syracuse, was found guilty by a jury Oct. 6, 2016, for the murders of Tara Thornburg and Josh Knisley Feb. 19, 2015. He was sentenced 20 days later to 110 years on two counts of murder and one year for obstruction of justice.
An appeal of his conviction was filed with the Indiana Court of Appeals Nov. 11, 2016, by his attorney Lawrence Hansen. The case is now awaiting a ruling by justices with the Indiana Court of Appeals.
DeHart is currently incarcerated at the Miami Correctional Level 3 Facility. Indiana Department of Corrections offender information shows the earliest possible release date for DeHart is Aug. 19, 2097.
Hansen’s 31-page brief states four issues: evidence presented was insufficient to sustain the convictions of murder, further, the “doctrine of incredible dubiosity requires the setting aside of the verdict and convictions relative” to the murder charges; the trial court erred in denying DeHart’s motion for a separate trial; the trial court abused its discretion in admitting musical/rap performances by codefendant, Woody and Dehart; and the trial court erred in admitting Woody’s prior firearms usage as such usage was irrelevant to the extent relevant, highly prejudicial to DeHart.
The brief includes the statement of the case, including the order on motion for severance from codefendants and statement of facts.
Hansen noted in his argument summary:
- The evidence presented at trial was insufficient to sustain the convictions of murder. Further, the doctrine of incredible dubosity requires the setting aside of the verdict and convictions relative to the murder charges.
- The trial court erred in denying defendant’s motion for separate trial as to codefendant Brandon Woody. Based upon the paucity of evidence against DeHart, evidence of Woody’s guilt was unfairly and prejudicially levied against DeHart.
- The trial court’s decision to allow rap songs relative to DeHart was in error in the songs were either irrelevant and/or the probative value was outweighed by the prejudicial effect.
- The trial court erred in admitting Woody’s prior firearm usage as such usage was irrelevant and to the extent relevant, highly prejudicial to DeHart.
Hansen is asking the court to find: evidence is insufficient as a matter of law to sustain the convictions entered in this case; the court reverse the convictions; and the trial court has committed reversible error as to the appropriate evidentiary issues, to order the trial court be reversed and DeHart receive a new trial.
The state’s response to the appeal was filed April 26 by Jesse R. Drum, deputy state attorney general. The state’s summary of the arguments, which concludes the court should affirm the trial courts actions, dispute the appellant’s arguments. The summary of the state’s arguments are:
- Sufficient evidence was presented to convict DeHart. (Thomas) Hursey testified DeHart and Woody planned to take Thornburg’s marijuana, tape her up and slit her throat … The incredible-dubiosity rule does not apply to Hursey’s testimony because it was not coerced, equivocal or uncorroborated. The state presented evidence to corroborate Hursey’s testimony.
- The trial court properly denied the motion to separate the trial. To prove the trial court abused its discretion, DeHart must show he was actually prejudiced by a joint trial, which he cannot do. Under an accomplice-liability theory, evidence against Woody would have been admissible against DeHart at a separate trial. Even so, the evidence did not prejudice DeHart because it only showed Woody was the shooter, which did not weaken DeHart’s alibi defense.
- The recorded raps and testimony about Woody’s choreographed rap performance were admissible …. Writing rap songs, rapping and dancing with a gun are not forms of misconduct from which the jury could form the impermissible inference DeHart and Woody must be murderers. The evidence was admissible for other purposes. The raps showed their access to the type of weapon used in the murders, motive and plan. … The witness who testified about Woody’s performance was qualified as a skilled witness … Even so, any error in admitting the evidence was harmless. There was substantial independent evidence of DeHart’s guilt.