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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 Oberst argued the trial counsel should have withdrawn as his counsel at the beginning of the trial when Oberst indicated he wanted to fire the attorney for failing to file a notice of alibi.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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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