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Appeals court upholds allowing represented defendant to argue pro se

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A criminal defendant represented by counsel who unsuccessfully argued on his own to withdraw a guilty plea to a Class A felony charge of dealing cocaine had a burden of proving manifest injustice, which he failed to do, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The court affirmed a ruling by Tippecanoe Superior Judge Randy J. Williams denying a motion to withdraw the plea in Jerome Milian v. State of Indiana, 79A02-1302-CR-197. Milian was sentenced to 33 years in prison, with 26 years executed, and was found to be a habitual substance offender.

Williams allowed Milian to proceed with the pro se motion to withdraw his plea, in which Milian said he was misled into believing he was pleading to a Class B felony rather than a Class A felony. The judge held a hearing at which Milian argued his motion while his attorney sat in as stand-by counsel.

An appeals panel rejected Milian’s argument that the trial court abused its discretion by allowing him to represent himself in the hearing on his plea-withdrawal motion.  

“Milian received multiple advisements and admonishments from the trial court regarding his rights, and in particular, his right to representation by counsel. Milian has failed to meet his burden of establishing that the trial court abused its discretion. Consequently, we find no error here,” Judge James Kirsch wrote for the panel that also included Chief Judge Margaret Robb and Judge Patricia Riley.

The court record of Milian’s guilty plea hearing worked against his pro se motion.

“Milian stated for the record that he was happy with his legal representation and the services his attorney had provided. Milian affirmed that the plea agreement contained the terms he understood were to be included. The description of the offense that was read to Milian at the guilty plea hearing included the element that the crime occurred within 1000 feet of a housing complex, and the probable cause affidavit for that count, which also includes that allegation, was sworn to by Milian,” Kirsch wrote.  

“In sum, all three veins along which Milian sought to withdraw his guilty plea, were rebutted by verified evidence in the record, and Milian failed to show manifest injustice,” the panel held.

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  • Wasting time & money!
    Mediocre cases like this are the reason that serious and violent crime goes unsolved. What is the difference of dealing within 1ooo feet or 1000 feet one inch of a school, park or public housing? Answer: NO! What is the difference between a public housing complex and a private resident with young children. Answer: NONE!

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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