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COA vacates murder conviction for ineffective assistance

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A woman convicted of a 2006 murder received ineffective assistance of counsel and is entitled to a retrial, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday, vacating a murder conviction.

In a memorandum opinion in which three panel judges each wrote opinions, the majority agreed that a defense attorney was impaired by a conflict of interest. The majority in Anissa L. Tyler v. State of Indiana (NFP), 48A04-1309-PC-428, vacated Tyler’s convictions of murder and Class A felony aiding, inducing or causing robbery, for which she was sentenced to an aggregate 60 years in prison. It was affirmed on direct appeal.

Tyler was convicted of killing Charles Robinette, who was found slain in his Anderson apartment in April 2006.

Tyler’s defense attorney, Blanchard Shearer, also had represented a drug defendant who was Tyler’s cellmate and told authorities that Tyler had confessed to her role in the killing. When Shearer became aware of the potential conflict during Tyler’s trial, co-counsel Jason Childers cross-examined the informant.

The post-conviction relief court found no ineffective assistance of counsel, but the appeals panel ruled otherwise. "Tyler’s trial counsel’s performance was adversely affected by the presence of actual conflict, which prevented trial counsel from impeaching (the informant’s) credibility by cross-examining her as to her pending drug charges and subsequent reduction in bond and release."

Judge Paul Mathias wrote the majority opinion which was joined by Judge Cale Bradford, who concurred in a separate opinion, writing that co-counsel’s failure to question the informant about bond reductions and other benefits she received for her testimony “leads to a reasonable inference that Tyler was prejudiced by the acts of the trial counsel.”

Judge Margret Robb agreed Tyler received ineffective assistance, but wrote that Shearer was barred by client confidentiality from disclosing what he knew about the informant’s drug case to co-counsel or anyone else.

"It was Childers’s failure to thoroughly review or properly utilize those materials that led to the jury receiving an inaccurate picture of Mann’s credibility,” Robb wrote.
 
 
 

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