INDIANAPOLIS — An appeal by Brandon Woody asking for his conviction to be overturned and a new trial was denied by the Court of Appeals of Indiana. The ruling was issued Wednesday, July 26. It is speculated the matter will now be filed in the Indiana Supreme Court.
Woody is serving 120 years for the murder of Tara Thornburg and Josh Knisley Feb. 19, 2015, in Syracuse.
Woody challenged the admission of Tara Thornburg’s statements to the 911 dispatcher and Syracuse Officer Joe Denton identifying him as the shooter, stating it violated his right to confrontation under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The appeals judges referred to the transcript of the 911 recording and the brief questioning of Thornburg by Denton.
The judges noted it is clearly the dispatcher’s sole concerns in speaking with Thornburg were to determine the nature of the ongoing emergency and dispatch assistance for the victims. “All of the circumstances surrounding the ‘interrogation objectively indicate its primary purpose was to enable police assistance to meet an ongoing emergency.'”
Regarding the questioning by Denton, the judges state “Under the circumstances, Thornburg’s statements to Officer Denton were nontestimonial and their admission at trial did not violate Woody’s federal confrontation rights.”
A second challenge dealt with Woody’s rap performance with a handgun. Here the justices stated “We quickly dispose of Woody’s undeveloped argument that this evidence violated Evidence Rule 4049B). Woody badly claims that evidence that he was seen dancing with a firearm constituted evidence of a prior bad act. It did not.” The justices further noted Woody failed to establish this evidence was unfairly prejudicial, let alone any unfair prejudice substantially outweighed the evidence’s probative issue. “We decline to second-guess the trial court’s Evidence Rule 403 determination.”
The final argument dealt with the rap recordings. The justices noted Woody contends the trial court abused its discretion by admitting audio recordings of three rap songs performed by him — at least one of which was written by him before 2012. The justices note the profane and disturbing lyrics of Woody’s raps were indeed prejudicial and likely to inflame the jury … “the degree of probative value of this evidence in determining whether Woody committed murder is certainly debatable.” However, they concluded any error in this regard was harmless.
“The state presented overwhelming evidence of Woody’s guilt. Most notably, Thornburg, who had known Woody since high school, identified him as the person who shot her and Knisely. (Thomas) Hursey also identified Woody as the shooter and provided detailed testimony regarding the events before, during and after the shootings. Moreover, important details of Hursey’s testimony were corroborated by evidence discovered at the scene of the shootings, DeHart’s home and elsewhere. In light of all the independent evidence of guilt presented at trial, we are confident that there is no substantial likelihood that the rap songs contributed to Woody’s murder convictions.”