Vickie Wooldridge
Vickie Wooldridge
A Nappanee woman convicted of killing a Warsaw man, stabbing the man’s father and attacking his mother is appealing her 94-year sentence to the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Vickie Wooldridge was found guilty in an August jury trial of murder, a felony; attempted murder, a Level 1 felony; aggravated battery and attempted criminal confinement, both Level 3 felonies; and battery while armed with a deadly weapon, a Level 5 felony. She was sentenced to 94 years in prison in September.

On Dec. 15, 2020, Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department responded to a 911 call at West Side Drive,?Warsaw. Diane Burr told officers Wooldridge, then 44, had stabbed her husband, William Burr, and her son Matthew Lucas. William was injured and found in the living room. Lucas, 42, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Attorney Jay Rigdon filed a 21-page appellant’s brief on behalf of Wooldridge Monday.  

Wooldridge’s appeal argues it was inappropriate to admit statements from Diane Burr.

Diane made the 911 call, which was recorded. She was also questioned at the scene. Both statements were played to the jury because Diane died two weeks after the attack, which was unrelated to the attack.

The state admitted the statements were both hearsay, but said they fell under “excited utterance” rule, which states: “The following are not excluded by the rule against hearsay, regardless of whether the declarant is available as a witness ... excited utterance: A statement relating to a startling event or condition, made while the declarant was under the stress of excitement that it caused.”

The defense, in its summary of argument, objected to Diane’s statements at trial based upon Crawford v. Washington, which ruled out of court statements by witnesses that are testimonial are barred under the confrontation clause of the U.S. Constitution, Amendment VI, unless the witnesses are unavailable and the defendant had a prior opportunity to cross examine those witnesses.

The appeal also cites Davis v. Washington, where the Supreme Court ruled a 911 call requesting immediate assistance was not testimonial in nature and was therefore admissible, but that statements given to law enforcement after a 911 call, when a witness was still at the scene and was a result of law enforcement questioning, were not admissible based upon the Confrontation Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The appeal states at the time of Diane’s statement on the video to law enforcement officers, there was no emergency in progress and there was no immediate threat and the officer was attempting to find out what happened at the scene.

The appeal argues “all of those factors lead to the obvious conclusion that the statement provided by Burr was, as Davis put it, ‘inherently testimonial.’”

As long as Davis v. Washington is still good law, then the admission of Diane’s statement after law enforcement arrives has to be determined error by the trial court, the appeal argues.

There are several cases in which the appellate court has refused to rescue a defendant from a conviction due the Confrontation Clause, those appear to be situations in which the defendant participated in some sense in keeping the declarant away from the court. The appeal argues none of those circumstances that have presented the application of Davis v. Washington by the appellate courts apply in this case.

The appeal brief also argues the trial court erred in failing to give the jury instruction requiring the jury to consider any reasonable theory of innocence which relies primarily, if not wholly, on circumstantial evidence.

The state objected to the instruction and instead sought to limit the instruction with no reference to the reasonable theory of innocence, the appeal states. Wooldridge’s attorney objected to that, which was noted by the court.

A “reasonable theory of innocence” jury instruction is warranted when there is no significant direct evidence of the defendant’s guilt, according to the brief. In Wooldridge’s case, the state had no direct evidence of Wooldridge stabbing Lucas. William didn’t see anything happen in the basement and was not able to see what happened in the basement. The presence of Lucas’ blood on what was believed to be Wooldridge’s clothing “is circumstantial evidence that something happened to put Matthew’s blood to be on her clothes. It is not evidence by itself as to what happened. It is not direct evidence that she stabbed him. No one saw that and no direct evidence exists to prove that this happened,” the brief states.

The appeal brief argues Wooldridge’s conviction should be vacated on all counts and remanded for a new trial.