ILNews

Supreme Court rules on belated appeals

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer Thursday to two cases dealing with belated appeals.

The high court granted transfer with opinion in Demond Hughes v. State of Indiana, No. 49S04-0802-CR-86. At issue was whether Hughes was allowed to file a belated appeal to challenge the appropriateness of his 40-year concurrent sentence. Hughes pleaded guilty to felony murder and Class A misdemeanor reckless possession of a handgun. Initially, the trial court sentenced Hughes to a 50-year concurrent sentence, with five years suspended. Hughes later obtained post-conviction relief reducing his sentence to 40 years - and retaining the five-year suspension - because the correct presumptive sentence for the date of the offense was 40 years. Hughes had filed for relief because he held the trial court didn't correctly weigh the aggravating and mitigating factors.

Six years after his sentence was reduced, Hughes filed a request to commence a belated appeal because he wanted his sentence reviewed for appropriateness "upon learning of his appellate rights." The trial court granted his motion, ruling Hughes had been diligent in seeking relief.

However, Hughes' belated appeal is moot because at his guilty-plea hearing, he was advised he gave up the right to direct appeal and the sentence was modified because the presumptive sentence should have been 40 years, wrote Justice Brent Dickson.

In his current appeal, Hughes is trying to relitigate the issue of the trial court not identifying all of the mitigating and aggravating factors in order to sentence him. The Supreme Court affirms the sentence imposed by the trial court after Hughes' post-conviction relief because his claim is barred by procedural default - a defendant may not by belated appeal religitate a sentence challenged previously in post-conviction relief, wrote Justice Dickson.

The Supreme Court also granted transfer and a remand by order in David Ohm v. State of Indiana, No. 79A02-0712-CR-336. The Supreme Court granted transfer to decide whether the Court of Appeals properly dismissed a belated appeal initiated by Ohm. Ohm pleaded guilty to two counts of murder in an open plea agreement and was sentenced to a term of 60 years executed. Sixteen years later, Ohm argued his enhanced sentence was improper and was granted permission by the trial court to file a belated notice of appeal pursuant to Indiana Post-Conviction Rule 2(1).

The Court of Appeals determined that Ohm had not been diligent in pursing the belated appeal and dismissed it without addressing the merits of his arguments relating to his sentence.

In the order authored by Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, the high court vacated the Court of Appeals opinion and remanded to the appellate court for consideration on the merits of Ohm's appellate arguments.

"Considering particular circumstances of this case, which include that the State did not object to the belated appeal, the appeal was fully briefed on the merits, and Ohm did not have any reason to brief the issue of whether the trial court abused its discretion, we believe consideration of the merits of this direct appeal by the Court of Appeals is appropriate," Chief Justice Shepard wrote.
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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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