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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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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