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COA: Destroyed tape doesn't make record silent

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The premature destruction of a tape of a guilty plea hearing by court staff doesn't render the record silent for purposes of Boykin, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday. As a result, the appellate court reversed the grant of post-conviction relief to a defendant who claimed the destruction of his 1991 guilty plea hearing tape prevented meaningful review of the plea.

In State of Indiana v. Mark Damron, No. 49A04-0901-PC-29, the state appealed the post-conviction court's decision that a destroyed record is by its very definition silent, and that a waiver of Boykin rights, Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 89 S. Ct. 1709 (1969), can't be presumed from a silent record.

Mark Damron pleaded guilty to Class D felony operating a vehicle while intoxicated in 1991; in January 2007, he filed his petition for post-conviction relief alleging his guilty plea wasn't knowing, voluntary, or intelligent because the trial court didn't keep a record of his guilty plea hearing. The tape of hearing was destroyed after 10 years, although the Indiana Rules of Criminal Procedure state that misdemeanor records can be destroyed after 10 years and felonies should be maintained for 55 years.

Boykin said courts can't presume a waiver of important federal rights from a silent record, but in Hall v. State, 849 N.E.2d 466, 469, (Ind. 2006), the Indiana Supreme Court said that a lost record is not the per se equivalent of a silent record.

The Court of Appeals concluded as in Parke v. Raley, 506 U.S. 20, 113 S. Ct. 517 (1992), Damron was collaterally attacking his guilty plea. Parke ruled that "it defies logic to presume from the mere unavailability of a transcript... that the defendant was not advised of his rights."

"It appears that the trial court had a policy of destroying tapes after ten years, and without more we cannot equate this policy, although in contravention of the Indiana Rules of Criminal Procedure, to governmental misconduct," wrote Judge Michael Barnes regarding Damron's case. "Given these facts, we cannot conclude that the presumption of regularity should not apply here."

Damron also failed to carry his burden of proof that he wasn't informed of his Boykin rights.

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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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