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Robert McCullough

Other Indiana Exonerations
On August 11, 1989, 24-year-old Robert McCullough was caring for the two children of his girlfriend, Brenda Hudson, in Michigan City, Indiana. McCullough called 911 that evening to report that four-year-old Shaun Hudson was in convulsions after getting into a bathtub of scalding hot water.

When police and emergency personnel arrived, McCullough was hysterical and the boy was on the floor of the living room. Shaun was taken to the hospital with severe burns on his buttocks, genitals, lower calves, and feet. McCullough told police that he had drawn a bath and put Shaun in the tub, but when he urinated, he took the boy out and spanked him. He said he then drained the tub and began drawing another bath.

McCullough said he left the bathroom when he heard Shaun’s younger sister, who had been asleep in another room, begin to cry. McCullough said he quieted the girl and when he returned to the bathroom, Shaun was in the tub and going into convulsions.

On August 22, 1989, McCullough was arrested on a charge of neglect of a dependent child. Shaun was treated for third-degree burns over 20 percent of his body and ultimately went through several skin grafts.

McCullough went to trial in LaPorte County Circuit Court on August 20, 1990. Michigan City police officers Mark Krickhahn and Allen J. Christensen testified that Shaun said that McCullough put him in the tub of hot water.

Krickhahn told the jury, “I just asked Shaun, I says, ‘What happened?’ and he said that Bobby [McCullough] had put him in the hot water. And when he began screaming…Bobby spanked him and then put him back in the hot water.”

LaPorte County paramedic Gary Banks testified that Shaun, while being transported to the hospital, said that McCullough burned him. Gail Grossman, a child psychologist, testified that Shaun told her that McCullough burned him.

Terrence Anderson, another psychologist who interviewed the boy, as well as Demetra Soter, the boy’s attending physician, also testified that Shaun said McCullough burned him.

A physician testified that the pattern of the burn showed a lack of splash or wave burn marks, indicating that the boy was placed in the tub.

The boy’s mother, Brenda Hudson, testified that when she talked to Shaun in the emergency room, he said he that he got into the tub by himself after McCullough left the bathroom.

Shaun told the jury that McCullough spanked him for urinating in the tub and then put him back in the tub. He denied that he told his mother that he got into the tub himself.

McCullough testified and denied he put Shaun in a tub of hot water. He told the jury that he left the room with the water running to attend to Shaun’s younger sister. When he returned, the boy was in the tub.

On August 22, 1990, the jury convicted McCullough of neglect of a dependent child. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

After the trial, McCullough’s appellate attorney reviewed police reports. The attorney discovered that one of the prosecution witnesses, Linda Martin, an emergency room nurse, told police she overheard Shaun tell Officer Krickhahn that he had gotten into the water himself. This statement was included in a report made by Officer Christensen.

McCullough’s appellate attorney then took a deposition of police officer Krickhahn, who had testified at the trial that Shaun said McCullough burned him. During the deposition, Krickhahn admitted, “Shaun first stated that Bobby (McCullough) put him in the water, and when he began screaming Bobby spanked him and put him in the water again. When I asked Shaun again what happened, he said he got into the tub by himself.”

The appeals lawyer argued to the Indiana Court of Appeals that the failure of McCullough’s trial defense lawyer to cross-examine prosecution witnesses about the reports that Shaun said he got into the tub himself was a failure to provide an adequate legal defense.

The appeals lawyer also argued that the trial judge had erroneously instructed the jury that McCullough could be convicted if he placed the boy in a situation that “might” have endangered him.

On June 22, 1993, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed McCullough’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The court ruled that the judge had given the wrong instructions to the jury. The jury should have been instructed that the prosecution was required to prove that McCullough had placed the boy in “actual, appreciable danger.” As a result, the court ruled, the jury was allowed to convict on a lesser standard.

The prosecution sought an appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court, but their request to appeal was denied.

On October 10, 1998, the prosecution dismissed the charge.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 1/16/2018
Most Serious Crime:Child Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1989
Sentence:20 years
Age at the date of reported crime:24
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No