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COA upholds denial of post-conviction relief

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The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with the post-conviction court that a defendant didn’t receive ineffective assistance of trial counsel, finding the man had no right to the effective assistance of counsel at the time he gave a statement to police in front of the attorney.

James Oberst was charged with two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor in 1998 and later convicted. The Court of Appeals reversed one of his convictions and ordered he be re-sentenced. In 2008, Oberst filed a petition for post-conviction relief, claiming his trial counsel was ineffective on several grounds.

 When Oberst gave his statement to the police detective in December 1998, he hadn’t been charged yet with a crime. Oberst’s attorney on an unrelated criminal matter happened to be at the sheriff’s department on the day he went in to speak with the detective, and the attorney agreed to help Oberst in the instant matter. Oberst signed a waiver of rights and admitted to having sex with the victim. His attorney in the unrelated matter was later appointed to defend him in the sexual misconduct case.

In James K. Oberst v. State of Indiana, No. 14A05-1003-PC-157, Oberst argued that his attorney should have somehow stopped him from confessing during the interview. But the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is activated at the initiation of adversary criminal proceedings, noted Judge Nancy Vaidik.

“And because Oberst did not have the Sixth Amendment right to counsel during the December 2 interview, it does not matter what trial counsel did or did not do during that interview. In other words, Oberst did not have the right to effective representation during that interview,” she wrote.

The judges also rejected Oberst’s arguments that his trial counsel was ineffective by not conducting an adequate pretrial investigation. Oberst couldn’t establish ineffective assistance on this issue or on his claims of trial ineffectiveness. Oberst argued the trial counsel should have withdrawn as his counsel at the beginning of the trial when Oberst indicated he wanted to fire the attorney for failing to file a notice of alibi. But the trial court resolved the matter by allowing the alibi witness, so he had no reason to fire his trial counsel, wrote the judge.

As with his other arguments, the appellate judges found Oberst didn’t provide sufficient evidence to support his ineffective assistance claim.

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  1. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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