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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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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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