Gerron’s conviction in teen’s murder upheld

September 14, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the murder conviction of Charles Gerron III, who fatally shot 17-year-old Ne’Keisha Hodges-Hawkins in 2011.

Gerron was 16 at the time of the shooting, and 22 last October when he was sentenced to 50 years in prison after a jury convicted him of murder in September 2017.

La Porte County Prosecutor John Espar said in a written statement Thursday he was “pleased” with the ruling.

“The Gerron case was probably the most-difficult case prosecuted in La Porte County in the last four years. As a cold case that went uncharged for five years following the murder of Ne’Keisha Hodges-Hawkins, every piece of evidence played an important part in the state’s case ... It’s reassuring to know the court of appeals found no error in the introduction of two important pieces of evidence.”

Defense counsel appealed the conviction on four points, which the appellate court restated in two: the trial court abused its discretion in allowing specific evidence, and the state did not provide enough evidence to support a murder conviction.

During Gerron’s trial, the state played a recorded interview in which he and his mother were being interrogated inside the Michigan City Police Department hours after the murder. Gerron could be seen wearing different clothes than what he’d worn to the party at which the shooting occurred; and his mother could be heard lying to police.

The state also produced evidence that – despite claiming he’d been shot in a drive-by – Gerron accidentally shot himself in the leg 34 days earlier.

Part of Gerron’s appeal asserts both that video and the information about shooting himself should have been inadmissible.

The appellate court disagreed.

In its written opinion, it says Gerron’s mother’s statements were not admitted to prove truth, but to show the context in which Gerron’s statements were made, so the entire conversation was admissible.

As for the gunshot wound, the court writes: “The evidence of the gunshot incident demonstrated that Gerron had access to a firearm and, thus, the opportunity to commit the crime alleged.”

The judges also believed the state provided sufficient evidence.

“According to Gerron, ‘(t)he state failed to present any evidence that Gerron knew … that when he fired three shots blindly down a hill into a crowd … that there was a high probability that (N. Hodges) would die.’ … We cannot agree. A reasonable trier of fact could readily conclude that Gerron knowingly killed N. Hodges when he fired a deadly weapon into a crowd. …

“Moreover, the state’s evidence demonstrated that Gerron had a .38 caliber firearm on his person at the party” and “immediately before the shooting, Gerron had started his moped ‘in[ ]case somethin[g] happened,” and “immediately after the shooting several witnesses observed him fleeing the scene while saying he had fired his gun into the crowd. And, later that night, when he learned of N. Hodges’ death, Gerron asked for bleach to wash his hands.”

Espar said he hopes the ruling gives the family closure.

“Although the Hodges-Hawkins family suffers at some level each and every time they are reminded of the death of Ne’Keisha, perhaps this one time, knowing the conviction of her killer has been upheld, will bring them a small measure of peace.”

Russel Brown, one of the attorneys who represented Gerron during his appeal, said the case may be appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court.

“We are consulting with our client and will likely be filing a petition to transfer to the Supreme Court,” Brown said. He declined to comment further.

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