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Appellate court reverses grant of post-conviction relief

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found that the post-conviction court erred when it concluded that a defendant had not knowingly waived his right to counsel.

In State of Indiana v. Christopher Vickers, No. 88A05-1106-PC-317, 19-year-old Christopher Vickers was arrested for various alcohol offenses and appeared two days later at an initial hearing along with a group of other defendants. At this hearing, the trial court advised the defendants of their rights, including the right to have an attorney, the risk of proceeding without one, and the availability of appointed counsel. Vickers’ family indicated that they would try to find an attorney, to which the trial court requested they let the judge know quickly so counsel could be appointed if needed.

Vickers eventually signed a plea agreement to Class A misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing endangerment; he did not have an attorney. The form was not signed by the trial court and didn’t have the name of the prosecutor and date completed on it. Nearly seven years later, Vickers filed his petition for post-conviction relief claiming that he had not knowingly or voluntarily waived his right to counsel. The post-conviction court granted his request, in part because there wasn’t a record of Vickers’ waiver of his right to counsel.

Based on Supreme Court precedent, the lack of a record showing a waiver of right to counsel does not necessarily mean the trial court didn’t make such a determination that the waiver was valid, so the extent that the post-conviction court relied on the lack of record to grant relief was an error, wrote Judge Patricia Riley.

Looking at other evidence in the record, the appellate court couldn’t find that Vickers met his burden of proof establishing that he didn’t waive his right to counsel or did not unequivocally assert his right to proceed without an attorney.

 

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  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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