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Appeals run out for woman convicted of murdering husband


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Tami Duvall, the former Columbus resident who was convicted of murdering her estranged husband to collect an insurance policy she had bought for him, exhausted her direct legal appeals when the Indiana Supreme Court refused to hear her case.

The Supreme Court unanimously declined Thursday to hear the case, according to case information on the Indiana Clerk of the Courts online docket.

On April 20, 2011, a 12-member jury found Duvall guilty of murder, six counts of insurance fraud and three counts of obstruction of justice in the 2007 poisoning death of Alan Duvall, for whom she purchased a $100,000 life insurance policy a month before he was found dead.

Bartholomew Circuit Court Judge Stephen Heimann sentenced Duvall on May 25, 2011, to 60½ years in prison: 55 years for the murder conviction, four years for insurance fraud and 1½ years for obstruction of justice.

By refusing to hear the case, Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash said the state Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the lower courts about her trial. Duvall’s only recourse now, Nash said, is to seek post-conviction relief by arguing a new point, such as ineffective counsel. All arguments previously made by her attorneys cannot be reintroduced, Nash said.

The case cannot be appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, Nash said, because none of the points of Duvall’s appeal dealt with federal laws.

“I’m quite frankly very pleased and relieved,” said Nash, who received an email Friday from the court about its decision.

Alan Duvall’s stepbrother, Henry McCune of Butlerville, said Monday that he was relieved to hear her appeals of the murder and insurance fraud and obstruction of justice convictions had hit a dead end.

“She deserves where she is at,” McCune said of the 54-year-old Tami Duvall, who’s in prison at Rockville Correctional Facility in Parke County.

Her earliest possible release date is Nov. 4, 2040, according to the Indiana Department of Correction.

When contacted for comment on the development, McCune said he was unaware of the Indiana Supreme Court’s decision because he tries not to think about Alan Duvall’s death and the ensuing legal proceedings.

“That brings up bad stuff and I don’t like to talk about it,” McCune said.

Alan Duvall died Aug. 23, 2007.

Police began investigating the case after some people who knew the Duvalls, including relatives, were suspicious about the circumstances of Alan Duvall’s death, Nash said.

Tami Duvall was charged with murder, six counts of insurance fraud and three counts of obstruction of justice Aug. 6, 2010. She lived in Jeffersonville at the time.

The probable-cause affidavit alleged Tami Duvall poisoned her husband with a lethal mix of morphine and prescription muscle relaxants to collect a $100,000 life-insurance claim.

The affidavit said Tami Duvall poisoned a dinner she made Alan Duvall, and he died while sitting in a lawn chair on the back porch of their home.

Nash asserted in court papers he filed Nov. 4, 2010, that her motives were driven by financial difficulties, malice toward Alan Duvall, the potential stigma of a second divorce, a desire to remove Alan Duvall as an obstacle and an extramarital affair.

Duvall’s jury trial began April 4, 2011, in Bartholomew County Circuit Court. Sixteen days later, the 12-person jury found her guilty of murder, six counts of insurance fraud and three counts of obstruction of justice.

She was sentenced to 60½ years in prison May 25, 2011, by Bartholomew Circuit Court Judge Stephen Heimann.

Duvall’s attorneys sought to have five of her insurance-fraud convictions and two of her obstruction of justice convictions vacated, but Heimann denied that request Aug. 19, 2011.

Her attorneys then appealed the murder conviction, five insurance-fraud charges and two obstruction-of-justice charges to the Indiana Court of Appeals in Indianapolis.

Duvall’s attorneys contended in court documents that the trial court erred by admitting testimony from her former boyfriend that he believed Duvall had poisoned him; that the admission of evidence suggesting that Duvall stole a bottle of morphine from her workplace was a fundamental error; and that Duvall committed only a single offense of insurance fraud and a single offense of obstruction of justice.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Sept. 6, 2012, that the trial court did not commit reversible or fundamental errors in the admission of evidence and affirmed the murder conviction, according to court documents. The court also vacated five insurance-fraud and two obstruction-of-justice convictions, saying Duvall’s acts constituted a single chargeable offense.

An attempt to have the appeals court grant a rehearing was denied.

Duvall and her attorneys wanted to have the Indiana Supreme Court hear the case, but it denied the petition.

“I did not want to have to try that case again,” Nash said.

Phone calls left Monday at the offices of Duvall’s attorneys were not returned.

Duvall case timeline

Aug. 23, 2007

Columbus resident Alan Duvall dies.

Aug. 6, 2010

 Jeffersonville resident Tami L. Duvall, 51, formerly of Columbus, was charged with murder, six counts of insurance fraud and three counts of obstruction of justice in the 2007 death of her estranged husband, Alan Duvall.

April 4, 2011

Tami Duvall’s jury trial begins in Bartholomew County Circuit Court.

April 20, 2011

A 12-member jury of seven women and five men find Duvall guilty of murder; six counts of insurance fraud, all Class C felonies; and three counts of obstruction of justice, all Class D felonies.

May 25, 2011

Duvall is sentenced to 60½ years in prison — 55 years for the murder conviction, four years for insurance fraud and 1½ years for obstruction of justice.

July 2011

Duvall’s attorneys file a motion, asking for the Bartholomew Circuit Court to correct errors in her April trial, and request that five of her insurance-fraud convictions and two of her obstruction-of-justice convictions — and the sentences she received for those convictions — be vacated.

Aug. 19, 2011

Bartholomew Circuit Court Judge Stephen Heimann denies a request by Duvall to overturn seven of the 10 convictions from her murder trial.

Aug. 26, 2011  

Duvall’s attorneys file a notice of appeal.

April 4, 2012

Appeal of murder conviction and others filed with Indiana Court of Appeals in Indianapolis.

Aug. 2, 2012

Duvall’s attorneys file a full brief with the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Sept. 6, 2012

Indiana Court of Appeals affirms the murder conviction and one count each for insurance fraud and obstruction of justice but reverses and vacates five convictions for insurance fraud and two convictions for obstruction of justice.

Oct. 24, 2012

Duvall’s attorneys file brief with Indiana Court of Appeals asking for a rehearing.

Oct. 31, 2012

Indiana Court of Appeals denies request for rehearing.

Nov. 29, 2012

Duvall’s attorney’s petition Indiana Supreme Court to hear the case.

Thursday

Indiana Supreme Court unanimously denies an appeal to have the court hear the case.

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