Court: S.C. decision not retroactive

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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In a case of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today that retroactivity doesn't apply to a year-old Indiana Supreme Court decision that held charging information must be amended within 30 days before the omnibus date.

As a result of the ruling, a Hendricks County man convicted of child molesting doesn't get relief.

At issue in Terry Leatherwood's appeal in Terry Leatherwood v. State of Indiana, No. 32A05-0710-PC-573, is whether the post-conviction court erred in refusing to apply the holding of Fajardo v. State, 859 N.E.2d 1201 (Ind. 2007) to his petition for post-conviction relief.

In late 2001, Leatherwood was charged with several counts of child molesting and the omnibus date was set for Jan. 18, 2002, with trial scheduled for June 10 of that year. The state in May 2002 attempted to amend five additional counts of child molesting, which were dismissed pursuant to a motion by Leatherwood. The state then amended three of the counts, petitioned the court to allow counts four through seven, and the trial court allowed counts four and seven to be filed and amended.

Leatherwood was convicted of all counts of child molesting and sentenced to an aggregate term of 120 years in prison.

Leatherwood appealed in 2003, and the Court of Appeals ruled that allowing the state to file the amended charges after the omnibus date did not prejudice Leatherwood.

But in January 2007, the Indiana Supreme Court issued its Fajardo decision and held that amendments of substance to charging information couldn't be made after 30 days prior to the omnibus date, regardless of a lack of prejudice. Leatherwood, who had filed a post-conviction petition in 2004, amended it to include his claim that the trial court erred in allowing the untimely amendment to his charging information. The post-conviction court denied his petition.

Judge Cale Bradford wrote today that Hendricks Circuit Judge Jeff Boles didn't err when determining Fajardo wasn't retroactive. Because the court's earlier ruling was based on established precedent at the time, it was not erroneous. However, if the court rules Fajardo should be applied retroactively on collateral review, Leatherwood would be entitled to relief, Judge Bradford wrote, relying on the state justices' stance following retroactivity rulings in Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989) and Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302 (1989).

This court cannot apply the analysis found in Teague because the "new" rule - which was determined in Fajardo - is not constitutionally based, so it cannot be considered for retroactive application, Judge Bradford wrote. The rule announced in Fajardo was based solely on language in Indiana Code, not the state or federal constitution, he wrote.

Even looking outside of the Teague framework to determine whether Fajardo can be retroactively applied requires appellate judges to look to Teague for guidance, the judge determined.

"... The Teague framework stands for the proposition that the more compelling the constitutional interest, the more likely that a rule embodying it will be applied retroactively," he wrote. "With this in mind, and in light of the fact that even the most constitutional rules are not given retroactive effect, it follows that those not rooted in any constitutional provision, like the rule announced in Fajardo, should not be given retroactive effect either."

The Court of Appeals affirmed the post-conviction court's refusal to retroactively apply Fajardo to Leatherwood's convictions, resulting in the ultimate denial of any post-conviction relief.

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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.