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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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  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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