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7th Circuit denies convicted murderer habeas relief

June 24, 2014

An Indiana man who was denied habeas relief, arguing his trial attorney was ineffective for not trying to suppress as evidence clothing he had given to police after his arrest, lost his appeal before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday.

Tyrone L. Jones was convicted of murder and other charges related to the death of Sam Alexander in Indianapolis. Jones was allegedly the last person to see Alexander alive. A witness saw him with Alexander’s television, which Jones had pawned. He also attempted to pawn Alexander’s microwave.

Police found Alexander dead in his apartment with his hands bound. When Jones was brought to police headquarters for questioning by Detective Charles Benner, Jones signed a form that contained sections of advice of rights and waiver of rights. Jones agreed to give Benner his shoes and clothing. The shoe print of Jones’ shoe was the same as one that appeared on a pillowcase in the house.

Jones appealed his convictions, which were upheld, and then sought post-conviction relief in state court. He claimed ineffective assistance of trial counsel based on his attorneys’ failure to object to the admission of the evidence related to the seizure of his shoes on the basis of Pirtle v. State, 323 N.E.2d. 634 (Ind. 1975).  The post-conviction court concluded that Jones had voluntarily surrendered the clothing. The Court of Appeals denied his claim, finding the mere admission of his shoes or clothing did not prejudice him.

“Here, Detective Benner’s request for Mr. Jones’s shoes fits comfortably within the category of searches to which Pirtle does not apply. It was limited in scope and was minimally intrusive – certainly less so than a blood sample or even a cheek swab. Mr. Jones has not come forward with any examples of Indiana cases that have required Pirtle warnings in circumstances similar to his, nor is there any indication that Indiana courts are inclined to extend the rule of Pirtle to apply in such circumstances,” Judge Kenneth Ripple wrote in Tyrone L. Jones v. Richard Brown, 12-3245.

“In the present case, had Mr. Jones’s counsel moved to suppress the shoes, or any evidence that resulted from the testing of the shoes, on the basis of Pirtle, we believe that the state court would have denied that motion. Consequently, trial counsel’s failure to press an unavailing argument based on Pirtle was not ‘outside the wide range of professionally competent assistance’ that Strickland allows, and trial counsel was not constitutionally ineffective.”

“By determining that Mr. Jones had not established that the admission of inculpatory evidence was the result of any Pirtle error, the Court of Appeals of Indiana reasonably concluded that the second, so-called prejudice prong of Strickland had not been satisfied. Consequently, on habeas review, we cannot conclude that Mr. Jones was prejudiced by any failure of his trial counsel,” Ripple wrote.
 

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