Henry L. Shell, Jr. v. State of Indiana ( 2014 )

  • Pursuant to Ind. Appellate Rule 65(D), this
    Memorandum Decision shall not be
    regarded as precedent or cited before any
                                                         Jul 14 2014, 5:38 am
    court except for the purpose of establishing
    the defense of res judicata, collateral
    estoppel, or the law of the case.
    ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT:                              ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE:
    KIMBERLY A. JACKSON                                  GREGORY F. ZOELLER
    Indianapolis, Indiana                                Attorney General of Indiana
                                                         GEORGE P. SHERMAN
                                                         Deputy Attorney General
                                                         Indianapolis, Indiana
                                   IN THE
                         COURT OF APPEALS OF INDIANA
    HENRY L. SHELL, JR.,                                 )
           Appellant-Defendant,                          )
                   vs.                                   )      No. 52A02-1307-CR-598
    STATE OF INDIANA,                                    )
           Appellee-Plaintiff.                           )
                            APPEAL FROM THE MIAMI CIRCUIT COURT
                               The Honorable Timothy P. Spahr, Judge
                                   Cause No. 52C01-1012-FB-41
                                               July 14, 2014
    CRONE, Judge
                                           Case Summary
           Henry L. Shell, Jr. appeals his convictions and sentence for class B felony neglect of a
    dependent, class D felony battery, and class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement. Shell
    raises numerous issues for our review, none of which constitute reversible error.
    Accordingly, we affirm.
                                   Facts and Procedural History
           The facts most favorable to the verdict indicate that Shell and his wife Karen resided
    together with Karen’s nine-month-old son, L.S. Although subsequent DNA tests revealed
    that L.S. was not Shell’s biological son, at all relevant times, Shell believed that L.S. was his
    son. On November 27, 2010, Shell and Karen used methamphetamine several times by
    injecting it with hypodermic needles. The next morning, on November 28, 2010, Shell and
    Karen were arguing in their bedroom as L.S. sat on the bed. Shell picked up a metal fence
    pole that he kept beside the bed for protection and swung it at Karen. Shell hit Karen’s arm
    with the pole. Shell swung the pole at Karen again, but when Karen ducked out of the way,
    Shell hit L.S. in the head with the pole.
           Karen attempted to call 911 but her cell phone would not work. Shell and Karen took
    L.S. to Shell’s sister Shirley’s house nearby. L.S. was unresponsive and stiff, had shallow
    breathing, and had blood caked under his nose. Shirley heard Shell say that L.S. fell off the
    bed. Shirley heard Karen say something about a pole. Shirley’s husband Timothy took L.S.
    and laid him on the couch while Shirley called 911. Shell was screaming, apologizing to
    L.S., and stating that he wanted to kill himself. Shell ran back to his house briefly and then
    returned behaving frantically. Karen was hyper and frazzled and ran in and out of Shirley’s
    house smoking cigarettes.
           Emergency Medical Technician (“EMT”) Jayme Hierholzer arrived on the scene.
    Hierholzer observed that L.S. was not moving or breathing well. Shell told Hierholzer that
    he would follow the ambulance as soon as he killed himself. As she examined L.S.,
    Hierholzer asked Shell what happened to the baby and Shell stated that “he hit the bed and he
    didn’t know L.S. was there.” Tr. at 427. Hierholzer observed that L.S.’s pupils were fixed
    and dilated and that he had a bruise and swelling by his left temple.
           When an ambulance and police officers arrived, Shell headed to the woods across the
    street. Converse Police Department Deputy Lee Mitchell photographed L.S.’s injuries and
    then went to the woods to locate Shell. When Deputy Mitchell found Shell, he identified
    himself as a police officer and told Shell that he needed to speak with him. Shell took off
    running. Deputy Mitchell chased after Shell, repeatedly ordering him to stop. Shell kept
    running while yelling, “I didn’t do it. I didn’t do anything. I’ll kill you. I’ll kill myself.” Id.
    at 405. Deputy Mitchell finally caught up to Shell and ordered him to get on the ground.
    Shell refused to comply and charged at Deputy Mitchell. Deputy Mitchell deployed his taser.
    The taser did not deter Shell. Shell pulled the taser probes from his chest and again charged
    at Deputy Mitchell. Shell hit Deputy Mitchell on the right side of his face and behind his left
    ear, causing cuts. Deputy Mitchell fell to the ground, and Shell ran off. Miami County
    Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Williams subsequently arrived, and Deputy Mitchell got in a police
    vehicle with him. The two officers eventually located Shell in a nearby residence and took
    him into custody.
              Deputy Williams, who was trained as a certified drug recognition examiner, observed
    that Shell was exhibiting signs of someone who was under the influence of a central nervous
    system stimulant such as methamphetamine. Shell exhibited dilated pupils, profuse sweating,
    hyperactivity, and teeth grinding. After Deputy Williams transported Shell to the Indiana
    State Police post, Shell repeatedly muttered that he had “fucked up.” Id. at 439.
              L.S. was transported to the hospital by helicopter. Doctors determined that L.S.
    suffered a significant blow to his left temple which caused a subdural hematoma. Additional
    tests revealed that L.S. had multiple skull fractures. Riley Hospital pediatrician Dr. Veda
    Akerman treated L.S. after his injury. Dr. Akerman concluded that because of L.S.’s injury,
    his brain is largely liquid, he will not progress beyond his current infant level, he will need
    round-the-clock care for the rest of his life, and his life span is likely compromised due to the
              The State charged Shell with five criminal counts: count I, class B felony neglect of a
    dependent resulting in serious bodily injury; count II, class B felony battery resulting in
    serious bodily injury to a person less than fourteen years of age; count III, class D felony
    battery resulting in bodily injury; count IV, class D felony domestic battery; and count V,
    class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement. A four-day jury trial began on May 20,
    2013. The jury found Shell guilty of counts I, III, and V and not guilty of the remaining two
    counts. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Shell to an aggregate
    sentence of twenty-one years. This appeal ensued.
                                       Discussion and Decision
                                 Section 1 – Peremptory Challenge
           Shell first contends that the trial court erred by accepting the State’s race-neutral
    explanation for its peremptory strike against the only African-American member of the jury
    venire. “Purposeful racial discrimination in selection of the venire violates a defendant’s
    right to equal protection because it denies him the protection that a trial by jury is intended to
    secure.” Addison v. State, 
    962 N.E.2d 1202
    , 1208-10 (Ind. 2012) (quoting Batson v.
    476 U.S. 79
    , 86 (1986)). We apply a three-part test to determine whether the State
    has improperly used a peremptory challenge to remove a potential juror from the venire
    solely because of that individual’s race:
           First, the party contesting the use of a peremptory challenge must make a
           prima facie showing of discrimination based upon race against the member of
           the venire. Next, the party using a peremptory challenge may present a race-
           neutral explanation for using the challenge. If the party seeking to strike a
           member of the venire provides a race-neutral explanation, the trial court must
           then decide whether the challenger has carried its burden of proving
           purposeful discrimination.
    Thompson v. State, 
    966 N.E.2d 112
    , 120 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012) (citation and quotation marks
    omitted), trans. denied.
           The burden at the first stage of the analysis is low, only requiring the defendant to
    show circumstances raising an inference that discrimination occurred. Addison, 962 N.E.2d
    at 1208. Removal from the venire of the only African-American juror that could have served
    on the petit jury is prima facie evidence of discriminatory intent and satisfies the initial
    burden under Batson. Cartwright v. State, 
    962 N.E.2d 1217
    , 1222 (Ind. 2012). Regarding
    the second step in the analysis, “[u]nless a discriminatory intent is inherent in the
    prosecutor’s explanation, the reason offered will be deemed race neutral.” Addison, 962
    N.E.2d at 1209 (quoting Purkett v. Elem, 
    514 U.S. 765
    , 768 (1995) (per curiam)) (additional
    citation omitted). While the race-neutral reason “must be more than a mere denial of
    improper motive, the reason need not be particularly ‘persuasive, or even plausible.’” Id. If
    the trial court is not persuaded by the race-neutral justification, it is during the third step of
    the analysis that “‘implausible or fantastic justifications may (and probably will) be found to
    be pretexts for purposeful discrimination.’” Id. at 1210.
           Due to the importance of the demeanor of potential jurors and the prosecutor when the
    trial court evaluates a race-neutral explanation for a peremptory challenge, we afford broad
    latitude to the trial court’s decision in such matters. Killebrew v. State, 
    925 N.E.2d 399
    , 401
    (Ind. Ct. App. 2010), trans. denied. We will set aside the trial court’s decision concerning
    whether a peremptory challenge is discriminatory only if it is found to be clearly erroneous.
    Forrest v. State, 
    757 N.E.2d 1003
    , 1004 (Ind. 2001).
           Here, Shell raised a Batson challenge to the State’s use of a peremptory strike against
    Mr. Summers, the only African-American prospective juror. While questioning the jury
    venire, the deputy prosecutor informed the prospective jurors that he had tendered “a fairly
    significant list of names of everyone who might conceivably be called to testify in this case”
    but that he was not going to call some of those witnesses “simply because I don’t think it’s
    necessary in order for us to present our story, our case, our evidence.” Tr. at 287. He then
    asked, “Are you, any of you gonna have any problem with that, Mr. Summers, if I don’t call
    some of those people?” Id. Summers responded in the affirmative.1 The deputy prosecutor
    then asked Summers, “You want me to call them all?” Id. Summers responded, “Yeah,
    because a man’s life is on the line basically.” Id. at 288. In using a peremptory strike against
    Summers, the State explained:
            In this case, I ask, you know, if I, if the state decided it didn’t need everyone
            on the witness list, would you still want all of the witnesses to be called, and
            he said yes, he did. We’re not going to call all the witnesses. So that’s gonna
            put the state at a disadvantage. One of two things. I have to, either have to
            know that he’s not gonna decide it my way, uh, or I’m gonna have to call a
            whole bunch of witnesses that I don’t think are necessary to prove the case.
    Id. at 298. The deputy prosecutor pointed out that it had also struck a white juror who stated
    that she would want DNA evidence even when DNA evidence is unnecessary or
            The trial court accepted the State’s explanation and denied the Batson challenge. The
    court determined that the State’s race-neutral explanation was plausible and “makes sense.”
    Id. at 299. Specifically, the trial court noted that “if this individual is going to say every
    possible named witness from the state is going to need to be here, um, that’s I think
    misunderstanding a certain fundamental concern, which is that the state doesn’t have to call
    every possible witness in order to make its case.” Id. The trial court found the State’s race-
    neutral explanations credible, and there is nothing in the record to indicate that the State’s
             Although the transcript indicates that Mr. Summers’s response was “inaudible,” it is evident from the
    record that he responded in the affirmative. Tr. at 287.
    reasons were merely pretextual. Shell has not carried his burden to show purposeful
    discrimination. The trial court’s decision in this regard is not clearly erroneous.
                              Section 2 – Prosecutorial Misconduct
           We next address Shell’s multiple claims of prosecutorial misconduct, two of which
    were properly raised at the trial level and preserved for appellate review and one of which
    was not. In reviewing claims of prosecutorial misconduct that were properly raised in the
    trial court, we first determine whether misconduct occurred, and if so, we assess “whether the
    misconduct, under all of the circumstances, placed the defendant in a position of grave peril
    to which he or she would not have been subjected” otherwise. Castillo v. State, 
    974 N.E.2d 458
    , 468 (Ind. 2012) (quoting Cooper v. State, 
    854 N.E.2d 831
    , 835 (Ind. 2006)). The
    gravity of the peril is not measured by the degree of impropriety of the conduct, but rather by
    the probable persuasive effect of the misconduct on the jury’s decision. Booher v. State, 
    773 N.E.2d 814
    , 817 (Ind. 2002). To properly preserve a claim of prosecutorial misconduct, the
    defendant must ask the trial court, at the time the misconduct occurs, to admonish the jury or
    move for a mistrial if admonishment is inadequate. Castillo, 974 N.E.2d at 468.
           In reviewing claims of prosecutorial misconduct that have been procedurally defaulted
    for failure to properly raise them in the trial court, the defendant must establish both the
    grounds for prosecutorial misconduct and the grounds for fundamental error. Booher, 773
    N.E.2d at 818.   Fundamental error is a narrow exception which places a heavy burden on
    the defendant to show alleged errors so prejudicial to the rights of the defendant that it
    renders a fair trial impossible. Benson v. State, 
    762 N.E.2d 748
    , 756 (Ind. 2002). Indeed, our
    supreme court recently held that to establish fundamental error, “the defendant must show
    that, under the circumstances, the trial judge erred in not sua sponte raising the issue because
    alleged errors (a) constitute clearly blatant violations of basic and elementary principles of
    due process and (b) present an undeniable and substantial potential for harm.” Ryan v. State,
    No. 49S02-1311-CR-734, slip op. at 2 (Ind. Jun. 3, 2014) (citations and quotation marks
    omitted). The Ryan court implored “We stress that ‘[a] finding of fundamental error
    essentially means that the trial judge erred … by not acting when he or she should have ….’”
    Id. (quoting Whiting v. State, 
    969 N.E.2d 24
    , 34 (Ind. 2012)).
                             Section 2.1 – Properly Preserved Claims
           Shell first alleges that the prosecutor committed misconduct by stating to the jury
    during voir dire that defense counsel’s “check comes from the government too, so we all
    work for the government here.” Tr. at 284. Shell objected to the comment, moved to strike
    the jury panel, and moved for a mistrial, and all of these requests were denied by the trial
    court. Shell argues that the comment improperly revealed to the jury that Shell was
    represented by a public defender, that his counsel “was representing him out of duty and not
    out of a belief in his innocence,” and that his defense costs were being paid by taxpayers.
    Appellant’s Br. at 28. Shell directs us to Jackson v. State, 
    698 N.E.2d 809
    , 812 (Ind. Ct.
    App. 1998), trans. denied, in which another panel of this Court concluded that a prosecutor’s
    statement that “[p]ublic defenders are paid by the state” was indeed improper. However, we
    found no prosecutorial misconduct in Jackson, concluding that the trial court’s subsequent
    admonishment to the jury cured any harm that may have been caused by the statement. Here,
    in response to defense counsel’s objection to the prosecutor’s comment, the trial court
    offered to admonish the jury. Defense counsel declined the offer for an admonishment,
    arguing that an admonishment would merely highlight the comment to the jury and instead
    renewed his motion for a mistrial. The trial court denied the motion.
           In deciding whether the extreme remedy of a mistrial is warranted, the trial court is in
    the best position to gauge the surrounding circumstances and the potential impact on the jury.
    Mickens v. State, 
    742 N.E.2d 927
    , 929 (Ind. 2001). On appeal, we afford great deference to
    the trial court’s exercise of discretion in this regard. Id. As stated above, to prevail on
    appeal from the denial of a motion for mistrial in the context of prosecutorial misconduct, the
    appellant must establish that the challenged conduct was so prejudicial and inflammatory that
    he was placed in a position of grave peril to which he should not have been subjected. Id.
           This challenged conduct did not rise to such level. It was an indirect and isolated
    comment that undoubtedly had little to no persuasive effect on the jury’s ultimate decision.
    As stated, the gravity of the peril is not measured by the degree of impropriety of the conduct,
    but rather by the probable persuasive effect of the misconduct on the jury’s decision. See
    Booher, 773 N.E.2d at 817. Shell has not shown that the trial court abused its discretion
    when it denied his motion for mistrial.
           Shell next asserts that the prosecutor improperly commented on his post-arrest right to
    silence in violation of Doyle v. Ohio, 
    426 U.S. 610
     (1976). During cross-examination, the
    prosecutor asked Shell if he was offered the opportunity to tell law enforcement his side of
    the story. Defense counsel objected to the question arguing that the prosecutor was
    improperly referring to Shell’s constitutional right to remain silent. The trial court sustained
    the objection. The prosecutor then asked, “Mr. Shell, have we ever heard this story before?”
    Tr. at 657. After Shell responded in the negative, the prosecutor followed up with, “Not until
    today?” Id. Defense counsel again objected and moved to strike. The trial court initially
    granted the motion to strike, but then determined that Shell had not answered the objected-to
    question so that there was no answer to strike. Finally, later during cross-examination, and in
    the presence of the jury, the prosecutor informed the trial court that he wished to finish
    Shell’s cross-examination the next morning explaining, “I had never heard this story before.
    Never. And to prepare for a cross-examination on a story that you’ve never heard before is a
    little difficult.” Id. at 662. During a sidebar conference, Shell again objected to the
    prosecutor’s reference and the trial court sustained the objection. There is no indication in
    the record that defense counsel requested an admonishment or moved for a mistrial.2
            “In Doyle, the United States Supreme Court held that under the Fourteenth
    Amendment a prosecutor may not use the silence of a defendant who has been arrested and
    Mirandized to impeach the defendant.” Trice v. State, 
    766 N.E.2d 1180
    , 1182 (Ind. 2002).
    However, even assuming the prosecutor’s comments here were improper, Doyle violations
    may be deemed harmless if it is clear beyond a reasonable doubt that the violations did not
    contribute to the defendant’s conviction. Kubsch v. State, 
    784 N.E.2d 905
    , 914 (Ind. 2003).
    In determining whether a Doyle violation is harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, we examine
              Because the record is somewhat unclear regarding whether this prosecutorial misconduct claim was
    properly preserved for appellate review, we will proceed to address the alleged Doyle violations in terms of a
    harmless error analysis.
    five factors: (1) the use to which the prosecution puts the post-arrest silence; (2) who elected
    to pursue the line of questioning; (3) the quantum of other evidence indicative of guilt; (4)
    the intensity and frequency of the reference; and (5) the availability to the trial court of an
    opportunity to grant a motion for mistrial or give a curative instruction. Id. at 915.
           After reviewing the record in light of the above factors, we conclude that any error
    here was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. First, the prosecutor’s references were not
    overly intense or frequent in the context of the entire trial, and defense counsel interjected
    with sustained objections on each occasion reducing the harm of any impact on the jury.
    Moreover, as explained more fully below, there was a substantial quantum of other evidence
    indicative of Shell’s guilt. It is clear beyond a reasonable doubt that any error in the
    prosecutor’s references to Shell’s post-arrest silence did not contribute to his convictions.
    See Sobolewski v. State, 
    889 N.E.2d 849
    , 858 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008) (holding that State’s use
    of defendant’s silence was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt), trans. denied.
                                    Section 2.2 – Waived Claim
            Shell also contends that the prosecutor committed misconduct during closing
    argument. Specifically, the prosecutor stated:
           We’ve shown you a Day in the Life of [L.S.] video, what his life consists of.
           His little prison in his wheelchair and his bed. And I told you that was all the
           result of the actions of Henry Lee Shell and his mother, and let’s not forget, I
           include his mother in that. I stand by that statement 100%. I have seen or
           heard nothing that changes my opinion.
    Tr. at 691. Shell asserts that the prosecutor improperly injected his personal opinion as to
    Shell’s guilt and also invited a verdict based upon the jury’s sympathy for a severely
    incapacitated child. Shell concedes that he did not object to this statement, request an
    admonishment, or move for a mistrial. Thus, he relies on the fundamental error doctrine
           As has been observed by our supreme court, “[s]everal Indiana cases have rejected
    fundamental error claims with respect to closing arguments more extreme than those made
    [in] this case.” See Carter v. State, 
    738 N.E.2d 665
    , 677 (Ind. 2000) (reviewing Indiana case
    law and finding no fundamental error regarding prosecutor’s closing argument alleged to
    have improperly invoked sympathy for victim and improperly commenting on the defense
    attorney’s function) (citations omitted). Regardless of the propriety of the prosecutor’s
    statements during closing argument here, we cannot say that the statements constituted
    “clearly blatant violations of basic and elementary principles of due process” that presented
    an “undeniable and substantial potential for harm.” Ryan, No. 49S02-1311-CR-734, slip op.
    at 2. More specifically, we are unable to conclude that the statements subjected Shell to such
    grave peril that the trial judge erred in not acting sua sponte in response. See id. Shell has
    not established fundamental error.
                                Section 3 – Admission of Evidence
           Shell next contends that the trial court abused its discretion when it admitted into
    evidence State’s Exhibits 48 and 55. “A trial court has broad discretion in ruling on the
    admission or exclusion of evidence.” Palilonis v. State, 
    970 N.E.2d 713
    , 726 (Ind. Ct. App.
    2012), trans. denied. “An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court’s ruling is clearly
    against the logic, facts, and circumstances presented.” Id. When reviewing the admissibility
    of evidence, we do not reweigh evidence, and we consider conflicting evidence most
    favorable to the trial court’s ruling. Meredith v. State, 
    906 N.E.2d 867
    , 869 (Ind. 2009).
             State’s Exhibit 48 consisted of a “day in the life” videotape depicting L.S.’s current
    medical condition. Appellant’s Br. at 33. State’s Exhibit 55 consisted of a videotaped
    deposition of Dr. Ackerman, the Riley Hospital pediatrician who evaluated L.S. after his
    injury. Shell objected to the admission of both exhibits, arguing that the prejudicial value of
    the exhibits outweighed their probative value.3 Shell maintains that the trial court should
    have excluded the evidence because the videotapes were inflammatory and “cumulative to
    substantial other evidence revealing L.S.’s tragic circumstances.” Appellant’s Br. at 33.
             We have explained,
             Indiana Evidence Rules 401 through 403 govern relevancy of evidence.
             Relevant evidence is admissible; irrelevant evidence is not. Ind. Evidence
             Rule 402. Evidence is relevant if it has any tendency to make any “fact that is
             of consequence to the determination” of the action more or less probable. Ind.
             Evidence Rule 401. Relevant evidence can be excluded “if its probative value
             is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.” Ind. Evidence
             Rule 403.
    Jackson v. State, 
    973 N.E.2d 1123
    , 1127 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012), trans. denied. “All evidence
    that is relevant to a criminal prosecution is inherently prejudicial, and thus the Evidence Rule
    403 inquiry boils down to a balance of the probative value of the proffered evidence against
    the likely unfair prejudicial impact of that evidence.” Duvall v. State, 
    978 N.E.2d 417
    , 428
    (Ind. Ct. App. 2012), trans. denied (2013). In determining the likely unfair prejudicial
                 Shell also filed a motion in limine requesting exclusion of the exhibits which was denied by the trial
    impact, courts look for the dangers that the jury will substantially overestimate the value of
    the evidence or that the evidence will arouse or inflame the passions or sympathies of the
    jury. Id. The trial court has wide latitude in weighing the probative value of evidence
    against the possible prejudicial impact of its admission. Freed v. State, 
    954 N.E.2d 526
    , 531
    (Ind. Ct. App. 2011).
           Here, it is clear that an evaluation of L.S.’s medical condition after the injury and
    information regarding his current condition and quality of life are highly relevant to the
    serious bodily injury element of two of Shell’s charged crimes and the prolonged and
    catastrophic impairment suffered by L.S. As noted by the trial court, in her brief videotaped
    deposition, Dr. Ackerman “dispassionately” explains her medical evaluation of L.S. Tr. at
    352. The “day in the life” videotape is less than four minutes long and simply depicts the
    reality of L.S.’s current medical condition. Again, as noted by the trial court, there is “no
    spoken commentary” with the video, and there is “certainly nothing gory or graphic about it.”
    Id. Under the circumstances, we agree with the trial court that the relevance of this
    information was not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. That is to
    say, it is unlikely that the jury would substantially overestimate the value of the evidence.
    Therefore, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting State’s
    Exhibits 48 and 55.
                                    Section 4 – Jury Instruction
           Shell asserts that the trial court abused its discretion when it refused his proposed jury
    instruction defining reasonable doubt. The purpose of jury instruction is to inform the jury of
    the law applicable to the facts without misleading the jury and to enable it to comprehend the
    case clearly and arrive at a just, fair, and correct verdict. Fowler v. State, 
    900 N.E.2d 770
    773 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009). When evaluating a trial court’s rejection of a tendered instruction,
    we look to: (1) whether the tendered instruction correctly states the law, (2) whether there is
    evidence in the record to support giving the instruction, and (3) whether the substance of the
    proffered instruction is covered by other instructions. Short v. State, 
    962 N.E.2d 146
    , 150
    (Ind. Ct. App. 2012). As a general rule, instruction of the jury lies with the sound discretion
    of the trial court and is reviewed only for an abuse of that discretion. Gravens v. State, 
    836 N.E.2d 490
    , 493 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005), trans. denied (2006).
           The reasonable doubt jury instruction submitted by Shell provided, “A reasonable
    doubt may arise from the evidence, or from a lack of evidence, or from a conflict in the
    evidence on or concerning a given fact or issue.” Appellant’s App. at 147, 212. The trial
    court rejected the instruction, concluding that the substance of the instruction was covered by
    other instructions. Tr. at 246-247, 676. First, as observed by the trial court, the reasonable
    doubt instruction that was read to the jury and many of the other jury instructions were
    pattern jury instructions, this being the preferred practice. See Gravens, 836 N.E.2d at 493
    (noting that the preferred practiced is to use pattern jury instructions because they have
    apparent approval of our supreme court) (citations omitted).
    Moreover, jury instructions are to be considered as a whole and in reference to each other,
    not in isolation. Munford v. State, 
    923 N.E.2d 11
    , 14 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010).
           Upon review of the whole of the jury instruction here, we agree with the trial court
    that the substance of Shell’s tendered instruction was adequately covered by other jury
    instructions, and therefore the jurors were adequately instructed regarding reasonable doubt
    and their ability to decide conflicts in the evidence. We disagree with Shell that his proposed
    instruction was imperative or that it was an abuse of discretion to reject it. Simply put, the
    instructions as a whole did not misstate the law or otherwise mislead the jury. See id. (“To
    constitute an abuse of discretion, the instructions given must be erroneous, and the
    instructions taken as a whole must misstate the law or otherwise mislead the jury.”)
    Accordingly, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing Shell’s tendered
    reasonable doubt instruction.
                             Section 5 – Sufficiency of the Evidence
           Shell next challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain his conviction for class
    B felony neglect of a dependent. When reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, we
    consider only the probative evidence and reasonable inferences supporting the verdict.
    Boggs v. State, 
    928 N.E.2d 855
    , 864 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010), trans. denied. We neither reweigh
    the evidence nor assess witness credibility. Id. It is not necessary that the evidence
    overcome every reasonable hypothesis of innocence, and we will affirm the defendant’s
    conviction unless no reasonable factfinder could find the elements of the crime proven
    beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. If there is substantial evidence of probative value to support
    the conviction, it will not be set aside. Jones v. State, 
    783 N.E.2d 1132
    , 1139 (Ind. 2003).
           Indiana Code Section 35-46-1-4(a)(1) provides that “[a] person having the care of a
    dependent, whether assumed voluntarily or because of a legal obligation, who knowingly or
    intentionally … places the dependent in a situation that endangers the dependent’s life or
    health” commits neglect of a dependent, a class D felony.” The offense becomes a class B
    felony if it results in serious bodily injury. Ind. Code § 35-46-1-4(b)(2). As charged in the
    amended information, the State alleged that on November 28, 2010, Shell, having the care of
    L.S., used methamphetamine around the child and/or participated in a violent physical
    confrontation with the mother of the child, in the presence of the child, the force and
    combination of which resulted in serious bodily injury (a fractured skull) to L.S. Appellant’s
    App. at 93, 97.
           In challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, Shell argues that the State failed to
    prove that he used methamphetamine around L.S. or that he participated in a violent and
    physical confrontation with Karen in the presence of L.S. which endangered L.S.’s life or
    health and resulted in serious bodily injury. Specifically, Shell argues that the only evidence
    presented regarding his alleged methamphetamine use or a violent altercation came from
    Karen and that her testimony was incredibly dubious. Shell’s reliance on the incredible
    dubiosity rule is misplaced.
           Pursuant to the incredible dubiosity rule, this Court may impinge upon the jury’s
    responsibility to judge the credibility of witnesses only when confronted with inherently
    improbable testimony or coerced, equivocal, wholly uncorroborated testimony. Manuel v.
    971 N.E.2d 1262
    , 1271 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012). Application of the rule is very narrow
    and permitted only “where a sole witness presents inherently contradictory testimony that is
    equivocal or coerced and there is a lack of circumstantial evidence of guilt.” Turner v. State,
    953 N.E.2d 1039
    , 1059 (Ind. 2011). Contradiction between witnesses’ testimony does not
    make evidence incredible under this rule. See Stephenson v. State, 
    742 N.E.2d 463
    , 497 (Ind.
             Our review of Karen’s testimony reveals that, although difficult to understand at
    times, it was neither inherently contradictory nor equivocal or coerced. In addition, contrary
    to Shell’s assertions, Karen’s testimony was not the only evidence to support his conviction,
    as the State presented ample circumstantial evidence of Shell’s guilt. Regarding Shell’s
    alleged methamphetamine use, Deputy Williams testified that, as a “certified drug
    recognition examiner,” he observed Shell’s physical appearance and behavior shortly after
    the incident as indicative of someone under the influence of a central nervous system
    stimulant such as methamphetamine. Tr. at 439. Karen’s claim that she and Shell had a
    physical altercation that endangered L.S. was substantiated by photographs of bruising on her
    arm that she stated were caused when Shell first hit her with the metal pole. Corroboration of
    Karen’s claim that Shell hit L.S. in the head with a metal pole came from medical evidence
    that L.S.’s injuries could have resulted from a single powerful blow to the head. EMT
    Hierholzer helped corroborate that Shell was the perpetrator of the blow when she testified
    that she asked Shell how L.S. was injured and Shell told her that “he hit the bed and he didn’t
    know L.S. was there.” Id. at 427. Finally, in addition to the aforementioned testimony, the
    jury heard evidence that Shell fled from and resisted law enforcement that responded to the
    scene. “Evidence of flight may be considered as circumstantial evidence of consciousness of
    guilt.” Brown v. State, 
    563 N.E.2d 103
    , 107 (Ind. 1990).
           In sum, Karen’s testimony was not incredibly dubious, and Shell’s additional
    challenges to her credibility and to the strength of the circumstantial evidence of his guilt are
    merely invitations for us to reweigh the evidence in his favor, which we may not. The State
    presented sufficient evidence to sustain Shell’s conviction for class B felony neglect of a
                             Section 6 – Appropriateness of Sentence
           Shell requests that we exercise our discretion to reduce his twenty-one year aggregate
    sentence. Pursuant to Indiana Appellate Rule 7(B), we may revise a sentence authorized by
    statute if, after due consideration of the trial court’s decision, we find that the sentence “is
    inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and the character of the offender.” The
    defendant bears the burden to persuade this Court that his or her sentence is inappropriate.
    Childress v. State, 
    848 N.E.2d 1073
    , 1080 (Ind. 2006). “[W]hether we regard a sentence as
    appropriate at the end of the day turns on our sense of culpability of the defendant, the
    severity of the crime, the damage done to others, and myriad other factors that come to light
    in a given case.” Cardwell v. State, 
    895 N.E.2d 1219
    , 1224 (Ind. 2008). We should “focus
    on the forest—the aggregate sentence—rather than the trees—consecutive or concurrent,
    number of counts, or length of the sentence on any individual count.” Id. Appellate review
    and revision ultimately boils down to the appellate court’s “collective sense of what is
    appropriate, not a product of a deductive reasoning process.” Id.
           When considering the nature of the offense, the advisory sentence is the starting point
    to determine the appropriateness of a sentence. Anglemyer v. State, 
    868 N.E.2d 482
    , 494
    (Ind. 2007), clarified on reh’g, 
    875 N.E.2d 218
    . Shell was convicted of a class B felony
    neglect of a dependent, class D felony battery, and class A misdemeanor resisting law
    enforcement. The sentencing range for a class B felony is six to twenty years, with an
    advisory sentence of ten years. Ind. Code § 35-50-2-5. The sentencing range for a class D
    felony is six months to three years, with an advisory sentence of one and one-half years. Ind.
    Code § 35-50-2-7. The sentencing range for a class A misdemeanor is up to one year in
    prison. Ind. Code § 35-50-3-2. Shell’s twenty-one-year sentence is three years below the
    maximum aggregate sentence for his crimes.
           Regarding the nature of the offenses, while his battery against Woods was not
    particularly egregious, we cannot say the same for Shell’s other offenses. Most significantly,
    Shell’s neglect of a dependent has resulted in unimaginable tragedy. Shell’s acts did not
    merely result in serious bodily injury to L.S., but left the baby in a persistent vegetative state.
    As for his resisting law enforcement offense, the record indicates that Shell not only resisted
    law enforcement, but also assaulted and injured the officer who was attempting to subdue
    him. The nature of these offenses does not warrant a sentence reduction.
           Regarding his character, Shell has a significant criminal history spanning twenty-nine
    years and consisting of five felony convictions and nine misdemeanor convictions. While
    Shell emphasizes that many of his prior crimes were related to his substance abuse and
    addiction, we note that Shell has been repeatedly granted drug rehabilitation opportunities
    and probation leniencies, yet he has refused to lead a law-abiding and drug-free life. Indeed,
    Shell committed the current offenses while released on bond for dealing in methamphetamine
    and theft charges. His poor character is evident in his continued poor choices. Under the
    circumstances, Shell has fallen short of persuading us that his twenty-one-year sentence is
    inappropriate in light of the nature of his crimes or his character. Accordingly, we affirm the
    trial court in all respects.
    BAKER, J., and BARNES, J., concur.