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7th Circuit: No attorney conflict of interest

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of a drug offender's petition for habeas corpus, ruling his attorney didn't render ineffective assistance of counsel when he also represented other co-defendants on the same drug charges.
 
In Argelio Gonzales v. Brett Mize, No. 08-1875, Argelio Gonzales appealed the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana's denial of his petition for habeas corpus, in which he claimed attorney Jay Hirschauer was ineffective because of conflicts of interest. Hirschauer represented Argelio at trial and on appeal, and also represented on the same drug charges co-defendants Laura Lapcheska, Argelio's girlfriend; Jorge Perez; Arnaldo Garcia; and Larry Campbell.
 
Gonzales argued before the Indiana Court of Appeals that a conflict of interest arose when Hirschauer negotiated a plea agreement for Lapcheska that called for her to testify against Gonzales; however, the plea agreement never called for that in writing and she never gave a clean-up statement as mentioned in the agreement. The appellate court affirmed the Circuit Court's denial of his post-conviction petition. The Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer.

On appeal to the 7th Circuit, Gonzales claimed the District Court erred when it rejected his claim of a Sixth Amendment violation because he was denied effective assistance of counsel when Hirschauer represented other co-defendants. The 7th Circuit granted transfer only on the question of whether he received ineffective assistance of counsel.

The federal appellate court determined Gonzales procedurally defaulted on his claims of conflict of interest relating to Hirschauer's representation of him and Campbell because he failed to make this argument in his petition to transfer to the Supreme Court.

In regards to the conflict of interest from Hirschauer's representation of Lapcheska, Gonzales' arguments also failed. Although he argued there was a conflict of interest because Lapcheska testified that she rejected her first plea agreement because she didn't want to testify against Gonzales, it was never mentioned in the written agreement that Lapcheska would have to testify against him. Gonzales failed to present clear and convincing evidence the first plea agreement Lapcheska rejected would have required her to testify.

Gonzales also argued that once Lapcheska was required to give a clean-up statement, Hirschauer was conflicted because she would have had to divulge information that could implicate Gonzales because her criminal activity could involve Gonzales. However, in her clean-up statement, Lapcheska would only have to divulge her own criminal activity prior to the date she was charged for the same drug crimes as Gonzales and there's no indication Hirschauer knew she could provide information about joint criminal activity involving her and Gonzales, the court ruled.

Gonzales failed to show that the alleged actual conflict of interest adversely affected the adequacy of his attorney's representation of him.

The Gonzales opinion was written by Judge Frederick J. Kapala of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, who was sitting by designation on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Look for a story about sitting in designation in the May 13-26, 2009, issue of Indiana Lawyer.

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  1. Falk said “At this point, at this minute, we’ll savor this particular victory.” “It certainly is a historic week on this front,” Cockrum said. “What a delight ... “Happy Independence Day to the women of the state of Indiana,” WOW. So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)

  2. congratulations on such balanced journalism; I also love how fetus disposal affects women's health protection, as covered by Roe...

  3. It truly sickens me every time a case is compared to mine. The Indiana Supreme Court upheld my convictions based on a finding of “hidden threats.” The term “hidden threat” never appeared until the opinion in Brewington so I had no way of knowing I was on trial for making hidden threats because Dearborn County Prosecutor F Aaron Negangard argued the First Amendment didn't protect lies. Negangard convened a grand jury to investigate me for making “over the top” and “unsubstantiated” statements about court officials, not hidden threats of violence. My indictments and convictions were so vague, the Indiana Court of Appeals made no mention of hidden threats when they upheld my convictions. Despite my public defender’s closing arguments stating he was unsure of exactly what conduct the prosecution deemed to be unlawful, Rush found that my lawyer’s trial strategy waived my right to the fundamental error of being tried for criminal defamation because my lawyer employed a strategy that attempted to take advantage of Negangard's unconstitutional criminal defamation prosecution against me. Rush’s opinion stated the prosecution argued two grounds for conviction one constitutional and one not, however the constitutional true threat “argument” consistently of only a blanket reading of subsection 1 of the intimidation statute during closing arguments, making it impossible to build any kind of defense. Of course intent was impossible for my attorney to argue because my attorney, Rush County Chief Public Defender Bryan Barrett refused to meet with me prior to trial. The record is littered with examples of where I made my concerns known to the trial judge that I didn’t know the charges against me, I did not have access to evidence, all while my public defender refused to meet with me. Special Judge Brian Hill, from Rush Superior Court, refused to address the issue with my public defender and marched me to trial without access to evidence or an understanding of the indictments against me. Just recently the Indiana Public Access Counselor found that four over four years Judge Hill has erroneously denied access to the grand jury audio from my case, the most likely reason being the transcription of the grand jury proceedings omitted portions of the official audio record. The bottom line is any intimidation case involves an action or statement that is debatably a threat of physical violence. There were no such statements in my case. The Indiana Supreme Court took partial statements I made over a period of 41 months and literally connected them with dots… to give the appearance that the statements were made within the same timeframe and then claimed a person similarly situated would find the statements intimidating while intentionally leaving out surrounding contextual factors. Even holding the similarly situated test was to be used in my case, the prosecution argued that the only intent of my public writings was to subject the “victims” to ridicule and hatred so a similarly situated jury instruction wouldn't even have applied in my case. Chief Justice Rush wrote the opinion while Rush continued to sit on a committee with one of the alleged victims in my trial and one of the judges in my divorce, just as she'd done for the previous 7+ years. All of this information, including the recent PAC opinion against the Dearborn Superior Court II can be found on my blog www.danbrewington.blogspot.com.

  4. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  5. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

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