Chesterton Tribune

Appeal rejected of Union Township man who opened fire on teenagers striking one

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A Union Township man convicted last year of criminal recklessness, after he fired a handgun behind his home and struck a Hammond teenager, has lost his appeal of the conviction.

On Monday, the Indiana Court of Appeals rejected the arguments of Gregory D. Huls, 49, and affirmed his conviction on two counts of criminal recklessness: one a Class C felony, in connection with the teenager’s wounding; the other, a Class D felony, in connection with the random discharge of a firearm.

Huls was sentenced in July 2011 to six years, four of them suspended and to be served on formal probation. The other two years Huls was ordered to serve on home detention, with six months of that time in the Porter County Jail.

The facts of the case, as rehearsed by the Court of Appeals.

On the night of June 14, 2009, four teenagers were at party when they decided to walk to a convenience store for snacks. Their route took them along a wooded area by U.S. Highway 30, near Huls’ home in the Shorewood Forest subdivision. “Suddenly, the teenagers heard someone shout ‘Hey,’ which was followed by a gunshot,” the court stated in its opinion. The four sought cover, more shots were fired, one of them was hit in the leg by a bullet, and at some point they heard a man yelling at them to leave. One of them shouted back, promising to leave and telling the man to stop shooting. Instead, the man continued to shoot.

Huls himself told responding officers that he heard noises in the woods “and opened fire with his pistol,” that he heard someone “asking him to stop shooting because they were leaving,” and that “in response he fired more bullets until his clip was empty, reloaded his gun, and fire additional bullets.”

Then Huls called 911.

Police recovered 14 shell casings from Huls’ property.

Huls appealed his conviction on four grounds: that he was entitled to a mistrial because of “prosecutorial misconduct,” specifically, that Porter County Prosecuting Attorney Brian Gensel “improperly commented on his failure to testify” at trial; that Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa abused his discretion by rejecting Huls’ proposed jury instructions on self-defense; and that the state failed to provide sufficient evidence to rebut Huls’ claim of self-defense.

The Court of Appeals rejected all three of Huls’ arguments:

•Gensel’s “clear reference to Huls’ availability to testify” was “isolated in nature and it does not appear that the prosecutor was deliberately attempting to prejudice the jury,” the court stated.

•Huls’ jury instructions—rejected by Alexa—“incorrectly stated the law on self-defense and the trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing them,” the court stated. The court added, “It is not an acceptable standard of conduct to fire a handgun into the night without determining who is there or whether the person poses a threat.”

•The court also rejected Huls’ contention that he opened fire because “he believed it necessary to protect himself and his property.” For one thing, two of the teenagers advised that they were never on Huls’ property. More to the point, the court stated, “Huls opened fire without identifying his target, and after he opened fire he did not attempt to end the encounter and communicate his intent to do so, in violation of the statute.”

 

Posted 8/7/2012