Hancock Trial - Day Two
HANCOCK GUILTY ON 2 OF 3 CHARGES
Friday, April 14, 2017 3:03 PM
A jury found a Madison man guilty on two felony counts, but ended with a hung jury on one count following about two and one-half hours of deliberation Thursday afternoon.
Jurors convicted Frank M. Hancock, 33, of a Level 4 count of possession of a firearm as a serious violent felon after a prior burglary conviction in Ohio and a Level 5 felony count of escape.
The jurors could not come to an unanimous decision on a second Level 4 felony count of possession of a firearm as a serious violent felon .
Hancock faced multiple counts of possessing a firearm after law enforcement officers claimed he had control of a shotgun before selling it to a confidential informant on Sept. 26, 2014, and he also controlled handguns during the execution of a search warrant on a residence believed to belong to him on Sept. 30, 2014.
Jurors convicted Hancock of possession of the shotgun during the controlled buy, but the six men and six women could not agree on whether evidence presented during the two days of testimony linked Hancock to the handguns inside the home where Hancock was believed to have lived.
Hancock could face from two to 12 years in prison on the Level 4 felony count and a maximum of six years in prison on the Level 5 felony count.
Jurors listened to hours of testimony, as well as closing arguments from the prosecution and defense, before beginning deliberations in the case Thursday afternoon.
Jurors first heard from Special Deputy and Detective Tim Armstrong with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. Armstrong told jurors Hancock had been identified as a person of interest and the sheriff’s department asked the confidential informant to purchase a shotgun from Hancock through a controlled buy.
Armstrong also noted the informant had a clean criminal history.
Armstrong testified that he saw the confidential informant carrying a long gun from behind a home on County Road 300-E. He was the officer who took custody of the shotgun from the informant’s trunk.
Armstrong also said he participated in the search of a West Third Street residence believed to belong to Hancock, but he was not part of the initial entry team. Armstrong first saw Hancock on a couch in the living room.
The detective said officers recovered three automatic handguns in a Disney gift bag near the door to the home.
Prosecutors recalled Sheriff John Wallace to the stand after receiving a jury question about compensation for the confidential informant. Wallace said the department paid the informant $100 for her work.
Jurors also heard from Madison Police Patrolman Dylan Barnes who outlined his role on the night of Sept. 30, 2014. Barnes said he was not part of the search, but he transported Hancock from the 700 block of West Third Street to the jail.
Barnes testified that Hancock was already searched and handcuffed by the time he took custody of the man, placed him in the front seat of his car and transported him to the sally port of the jail. While securing his firearm in the lockbox, Barnes heard a car door slam and noticed Hancock had exited the car and sprinted to the closing sally port door before ducking under it. Barnes also noticed Hancock had slipped the handcuffs off one wrist with the cuffs remaining on the other wrist.
Barnes testified that Hancock sprinted south toward Second Street after exiting the sally port. Hancock crossed Second Street and continued to run down an ally next to the city’s parking lot while Barnes yelled for the man to stop and alerted other officers of a runner. Barnes continued to chase Hancock after he turned onto Blaine Avenue and attempted to cut between two homes, the patrolman said.
Barnes testified that Hancock eventually fell between two houses, and the officer deployed his Taser to gain control of the man. The Taser was ineffective, Barnes said, but he was able to physically restrain the man and gain control after applying a wristlock.
Barnes also testified that he did not believe Hancock had been under the influence of alcohol or narcotics during his arrest on Sept. 30, 2014.
The defense called no witnesses during the trial.
During closing arguments, Deputy Prosecutor RaeAne Pryor discussed each count. She asked jurors to consider if the $100 paid to the confidential informant was enough motivation to help with an ongoing investigation into someone she didn’t know. She also asked jurors to consider how one $10 bill used in the controlled buy would end up on Hancock’s person if he hadn’t been the one to take part in the buy.
Pryor also pointed to phone records containing information that a phone belonging to Hancock exchanged phone calls and text messages with a phone number belonging to the confidential informant.
She also asked jurors to think about the handguns found in the gift bag during the execution of the search warrant. The bag, which was pink and featured Disney princesses on the outside, was located in the same home where Hancock, a female and two juvenile males were found in 2014.
“Those don’t look like gifts,” she said of the weapons. “I don’t think most people expect to pull a handgun out of a Disney princess bag.”
Pryor also asked to consider the reasons Hancock ran from Barnes following transport to the jail. Pryor argued Hancock knew his offender status and possession of firearms were illegal and tried to get away from police.
“Innocent men don’t run,” she said.
Della Swincher, Hancock’s defense attorney, argued there were problems with the prosecution’s arguments in each of the three charges. Swincher started with the charge of escape and argued police only detained Hancock and did not tell him he was under arrest.
She argued there had been no testimony that firmly put Hancock as a resident of the home of West Third Street. She also called into question the gift bag an officer claimed he saw Hancock gather from a car before taking the bag inside. Swincher noted the officer couldn’t see the bag clearly because of the darkness, plus the officer never saw what was in the bag.
As to the charge with the shotgun, Swincher asked jurors to consider the fact no usable prints could be taken from the firearm for comparison and officers only saw the confidential informant hold the weapon at the home on County Road 300-E.
No witness other than the informant testified that Hancock even touched the gun, she said.
Swincher encouraged jurors to make sure the prosecution proved each element before making a final decision.
“Hold the prosecution to their standard,” she said.
During final rebuttal, Chief Deputy Prosecutor D.J. Mote asked jurors to use their own common sense in some situations. As for the escape, Mote said common sense would cause most people to believe they had been arrested if they were placed in handcuffs, a police cruiser and taken to the jail. Besides police aren’t required under Indiana law to tell someone they are actually under arrest, he said.
Mote referenced a recording of the controlled buy where the informant is talking to Hancock and mentions he points the gun toward his friend’s head to which Hancock gives a reply.
Mote also reminded jurors the prosecution is not required to prove a perfect case.
“He’s trying to run from the truth,” Mote said. “Don’t let him.”
Jurors began deliberations around 3:15 p.m. Senior Judge Fred Hoying read the verdict around 5:45 p.m.
Police served an active warrant on Hancock after the verdict was read for a new misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana after Hancock was found with the substance on his person Wednesday night.
Prosecutors asked that Hancock be remanded into custody pending sentencing, which was scheduled for May 10. Hoying noted that he was not modifying Hancock’s bond, which the posted prior to trial, but the Court ordered Hancock into police custody following the conviction by denying bond pending appeal in the case.
Hancock will remain incarcerated at the Jefferson County Jail until May’s sentencing hearing.