Justices find ineffective assistance in case

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Supreme Court has determined an appellate attorney rendered ineffective assistance in an Evansville kidnapping case that resulted in a police dog being fatally shot 10 years ago.

A unanimous court ruled Feb. 27 in Antwain Henley v. State of Indiana, No. 82S05-0701-PC-31, which comes from a Vanderburgh County case at the post-conviction relief stage involving a pro se litigant. The Court of Appeals panel issued a ruling in October 2006, reversing and holding in favor of the defendant Henley, and remanding for a new trial. The Supreme Court granted transfer last year and heard arguments in April.

The case goes back to August 1998, when Henley kidnapped two women at gunpoint and forced them into their car's trunk, after having them remove their clothes. Police stopped the car and Henley ran; officers used a canine to track him into a van, where he fatally shot the dog inside. A jury convicted him on several felony counts the following year, after litigation disputes about whether Henley was representing himself or having standby counsel assist, and he received an 80-year sentence. On appeal, Henley's attorney raised 10 issues but four were waived for lack of cogent argument and citable authority.

Last year, the sole argument that won the three-judge panel's reversal was an assertion that direct appeal counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to challenge the trial court's summary denial of Henley's request that standby counsel during trial deliver closing arguments. At the time, the trial court had determined Henley was proceeding pro se.

Writing for the court, Justice Robert D. Rucker reversed the post-conviction ruling on an issue not addressed by the Court of Appeals because of the appellate attorney's ineffective assistance.

The lawyer representing Henley on appeal should have challenged the sufficiency of the evidence, since a conviction on the attempted murder charge requires proof of a specific intent to kill, Justice Rucker wrote. Evidence in this case reveals that, as he was fleeing from police, Henley shot his gun in an attempt to ward off an attack by a large dog and protect himself, not that he was trying to kill the canine officer. Though a jury rejected that argument, Justice Rucker said the record doesn't include any evidence to support the claim and that intent wasn't established beyond a reasonable doubt.

"In this case, the Court of Appeals on direct review did not actually adjudicate Henley's sufficiency of the evidence claim. This was so because although appellate counsel presented the issue, he did such a poor job that the court declined to address the claim on grounds of waiver," Justice Rucker wrote. "We are persuaded that had appellate counsel presented cogent argument with citation to relevant authority challenging the sufficiency of evidence to support the attempted murder conviction, the outcome of the appeal would have been different, namely, the conviction would have been reversed."

While ruling that appellate counsel didn't adequately challenge the evidence of intent, Justice Rucker also made an interesting footnote that a similar legal issue is being argued in March before the U.S. Supreme Court, and that decision could change the analysis of this state case.

That case is Indiana v. Edwards, 128 S. Ct. 741 (2007), and questions whether states may adopt higher standards for measuring competency to represent oneself at trial than for measuring competency to stand trial. Arguments are set for March 26.

"The outcome of Edwards may have a bearing on our analysis in this case," Justice Rucker observed. "But we are bound by the present state of the law, which declares that competency to represent oneself at trial is measured by competency to stand trial. Henley concedes that he was 'competent to waive counsel and represent himself in spite of his mental retardation.' We are compelled to agree."

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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.