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COA upholds denial of post-conviction relief

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The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with the post-conviction court that a defendant didn’t receive ineffective assistance of trial counsel, finding the man had no right to the effective assistance of counsel at the time he gave a statement to police in front of the attorney.

James Oberst was charged with two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor in 1998 and later convicted. The Court of Appeals reversed one of his convictions and ordered he be re-sentenced. In 2008, Oberst filed a petition for post-conviction relief, claiming his trial counsel was ineffective on several grounds.

 When Oberst gave his statement to the police detective in December 1998, he hadn’t been charged yet with a crime. Oberst’s attorney on an unrelated criminal matter happened to be at the sheriff’s department on the day he went in to speak with the detective, and the attorney agreed to help Oberst in the instant matter. Oberst signed a waiver of rights and admitted to having sex with the victim. His attorney in the unrelated matter was later appointed to defend him in the sexual misconduct case.

In James K. Oberst v. State of Indiana, No. 14A05-1003-PC-157, Oberst argued that his attorney should have somehow stopped him from confessing during the interview. But the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is activated at the initiation of adversary criminal proceedings, noted Judge Nancy Vaidik.

“And because Oberst did not have the Sixth Amendment right to counsel during the December 2 interview, it does not matter what trial counsel did or did not do during that interview. In other words, Oberst did not have the right to effective representation during that interview,” she wrote.

The judges also rejected Oberst’s arguments that his trial counsel was ineffective by not conducting an adequate pretrial investigation. Oberst couldn’t establish ineffective assistance on this issue or on his claims of trial ineffectiveness. Oberst argued the trial counsel should have withdrawn as his counsel at the beginning of the trial when Oberst indicated he wanted to fire the attorney for failing to file a notice of alibi. But the trial court resolved the matter by allowing the alibi witness, so he had no reason to fire his trial counsel, wrote the judge.

As with his other arguments, the appellate judges found Oberst didn’t provide sufficient evidence to support his ineffective assistance claim.

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  1. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

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  3. This is happening so much. Even in 2016.2017. I hope the father sue for civil rights violation. I hope he sue as more are doing and even without a lawyer as pro-se, he got a good one here. God bless him.

  4. JLAP and other courtiers ... Those running court systems, have most substance abuse issues. Probably self medicating to cover conscience issues arising out of acts furthering govt corruption

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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