In 2010, Scroggins Gun Shop was burglarized. The burglar forced open the front door of the business, broke a glass display case, and took 8 guns. The crime took less than a minute, and surveillance video did not capture the face or other identifying characteristics of the perpetrator. An evidence technician processed the scene, discovering what appeared to be blood spots the size of an eraser head on two pieces of broken glass from the display case which he took to the Indiana State Police Lab for testing. Shortly thereafter, Scott Speers was identified as a suspect based on a CODIS database search. Police then obtained a search warrant to swab his cheek for DNA, and this sample was submitted for DNA analysis. Analysis determined that his DNA matched the DNA obtained from the pieces of glass. The State charged Speers with burglary and the jury found him guilty.
On appeal, Speers contends that the lead detective presented evidence in such a way as to create an evidentiary harpoon. The following testimony occurred after the detective explained that the initial suspect was excluded based on DNA results:
[STATE:] Okay. Did there come a point where you developed a second suspect?[WITNESS:] Yes.[STATE:] And having developed a suspect, what did you then do[?]Speers objected and moved for a mistrial on the basis that the State was leaving the jury to speculate as to how he was developed as a suspect. The State responded that the reason a defendant is developed as a suspect is often kept from the jury and that, here, the State was carefully trying to avoid informing the jury of the CODIS match, which would have indicated Speers had a prior criminal history. The trial court denied the motion for mistrial.
An evidentiary harpoon is the placing of inadmissible evidence before the jury with the deliberate purpose of prejudicing the jurors against the defendant. To prevail on such a claim, the defendant must show that: (1) the prosecution acted deliberately to prejudice the jury; and (2) the evidence was inadmissible. Id. The defendant must show further that he was “placed in a position of grave peril to which he should not have been subjected.” We agree with the State that Speers has mischaracterized this situation as an evidentiary harpoon. The brief question and answer set out above did not inject any inadmissible evidence into the trial and was used by the State as a simple transition from testimony regarding the initial suspect to the detective’s subsequent investigation of Speers. In fact, it is clear that the State deliberately sought to avoid introducing any evidence regarding the CODIS match. While the jury may have been left to speculate as to how Speers became a suspect, this would have been true regardless of whether the above exchange occurred. Under the circumstances, we find neither the insertion of an evidentiary harpoon nor a situation of grave peril. 988 N.E.2d 1238