7th Circuit denies habeas relief in 2005 Gary murder

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A man convicted of murder for the 2005 shooting death of a 15-year-old on a Gary street wasn’t prejudiced by his attorney’s refusal to object to a prosecutor’s comments about the defendant’s failure to testify, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

The panel affirmed U.S. District Judge James Moody’s dismissal of a habeas petition in the District Court, Northern District of Indiana, South Bend. Tommy D. Ford was convicted in Lake Superior Court of the murder of Christian Hodge in a second trial after the first ended in a hung jury. Ford was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

“Ford contends that an objection would have been sustained because the prosecutor’s comments violated his Fifth Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination,” Circuit Judge John Tinder wrote for the panel in Tommy D. Ford v. Bill Wilson, Superintendent, 12-3844. “However, even assuming that to be true, Ford has failed to show prejudice resulting from his attorney’s failure to object.”

Ford’s petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 fails, Tinder wrote, because “the strength of … evidence negates any reasonable probability that the outcome of Ford’s trial would have been different absent the prosecutor’s comments.”

The panel did find, though, that the Indiana Court of Appeals applied the wrong standard in denying Ford’s petition for post-conviction relief. But citing Ruhl v. Hardy, 743 F.3d 1083, 1091 (7th Cir. 2014), the panel found misapplication of the standard doesn’t in itself permit relief because “the court’s application must have been more than incorrect; it must have been objectively unreasonable.”

Writing for the panel, Tinder concluded, “Although the Indiana Court of Appeals applied the wrong legal standard to Ford’s claim, when we apply the correct standard, we get the same result. Even assuming the performance of Ford’s trial counsel was deficient, there is no reasonable probability that adequate performance would have changed the outcome of Ford’s trial.”



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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues