Plea can't be challenged with new evidence

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
In a case of first impression, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled a guilty plea can't be challenged in post-conviction proceedings by a claim of newly discovered evidence regarding the events making up the crime.

In Shawn E. Norris v. State of Indiana, No. 43S03-0807-CR-379, Shawn Norris appealed the post-conviction court's grant of the state's motion for summary disposition on Norris' petition for post-conviction relief. Norris pleaded guilty four years earlier to molesting his sister's child, served his sentence, and then later filed the petition for relief on grounds of newly discovered evidence. His sister, whose allegations resulted in the child molesting charges against Norris, recanted her story and said that because of Norris' limited mental capacity, she could convince him to say anything she wanted him to believe.

Norris believed these submissions from his sister entitled him to an evidentiary hearing on his petition for post-conviction relief. He wanted the court to set aside and vacate his conviction.

Here, Norris is seeking to undermine the sanctity of his own guilty plea by challenging the facts presented to the police that led to his arrest; he isn't contesting testimonial evidence at the trial that resulted in determination of guilt notwithstanding a not-guilty plea. Indiana's post-conviction procedures don't expressly address that distinction, wrote Justice Brent Dickson.

"It is inconsistent to allow defendants who pleaded guilty to use post-conviction proceedings to later revisit the integrity of their plea in light of alleged new evidence seeking to show that they were in fact not guilty. Both his confession and his new claims cannot be true," wrote the justice.

With the acceptance of his guilty plea, Norris waived the right to present evidence regarding guilt or innocence. A defendant can have recourse to post-conviction proceedings to seek to withdraw his guilty plea whenever the guilty plea wasn't knowingly and voluntarily made, but Norris isn't asserting that claim, wrote Justice Dickson.

Justices Theodore Boehm and Robert Rucker concurred in a separate opinion, agreeing Norris hadn't shown the post-conviction court erred in dismissing his petition, but the two justices don't agree that a guilty plea precludes a court from granting post-conviction relief on a claim of actual innocence. Justice Boehm gives the example of a defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge in the face of highly persuasive but not conclusive evidence of guilt in a crime carrying a higher penalty.

"The interest of justice surely requires overturning a conviction of an innocent person," he wrote.

But, in the instant case, Norris didn't present evidence that meets the standards required by Post-Conviction Rule 1(a)(4), therefore there isn't enough to overcome the strong presumption that a guilty plea is in fact a truthful admission of guilt, he wrote.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues