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Court turns down appeal of man who shot teen

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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 run out of legal options.

Last week, the Indiana Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of Donald Gregory Huls, 49. The decision to deny transfer to the court was unanimous.

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.

Huls appealed his conviction to the Indiana Court of Appeals but on Aug. 6 that court rejected Huls’ arguments 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 discharge of a firearm.

The facts of the case, as rehearsed by the Court of Appeals in its August ruling:

On the night of June 14, 2009, four teenagers were at a 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 of Appeals stated in its ruling. 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 fired additional bullets.”

Then Huls called 911.

Police recovered 14 shell casings from Huls’ property.

Huls had appealed his conviction on three 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 Brian Gensel 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 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 of Appeals stated.

•Huls’ proposed jury instructions—rejected by Alexa—“incorrectly stated the law on self-defense and the trial court did not abuse its discretion by rejecting them,” the Court of Appeals 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 of Appeals 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 12/18/2012