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Attorneys' performances don't require post-conviction relief

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A LaPorte County man with a lengthy criminal history couldn’t convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that he is entitled to post-conviction relief due to ineffective assistance from his trial and appellate attorneys.

In Charles A. Walker v. State of Indiana, 46A04-1210-PC-519, Charles Walker appealed the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. He had been convicted of robbery and found to be a habitual offender. He was sentenced to 40 years.

Walker claimed his trial attorney was ineffective by not challenging the sufficiency of the evidence to support the habitual offender finding via a motion for directed verdict. He argued the evidence didn’t establish his identity and the sequence of the predicate offenses. The COA found the attorney was not ineffective with respect to Walker’s identity, as a police officer and probation officer involved in Walker’s 1980 and 1989 convictions, used to support the habitual offender finding, affirmed Walker’s identity.

The judges did find that the trial counsel’s performance was deficient by failing to request a directed verdict after the state didn’t present documentary evidence establishing the proper sequencing of the predicate offenses. But even if his attorney had requested a directed verdict, the state “simply could have requested that the trial court exercise its discretion and grant permission to reopen the case to introduce the 1989 charging information,” Judge Terry Crone wrote. Thus, it’s not reasonably probable that Walker would have received a different outcome on the habitual offender count.

The appellate court also found that the trial attorney was not ineffective in failing to object to the jury instructions regarding the habitual offender finding or to the habitual offender verdict form.

Regarding his appellate counsel, Walker argued that attorney was ineffective by not raising the same habitual offender issues that formed the basis of claims against his trial counsel. Walker’s appellate attorney raised two issues on direct appeal: the sufficiency of evidence supporting the robbery conviction and the appropriateness of the sentence. The appellate court couldn’t determine why the appellate attorney didn’t raise the issue concerning the habitual offender designation because the attorney was deceased at the time of the post-conviction hearing.

The unraised issue of sufficiency of evidence supporting the habitual offender finding was not clearly stronger than the issues raised by the appellate attorney, Crone wrote, pointing to the record on direct appeal. The record also shows that the attorney did request the COA vacate the habitual offender filing in conjunction with his appropriateness of sentence claim.
 

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