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Court erred in denying court-appointed counsel

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a man's convictions because the trial court failed to adequately ascertain whether he was indigent for purposes of court-appointed counsel.

In Bradley G. Shively v. State of Indiana, No. 12A02-0903-CR-235, Bradley Shively requested a court-appointed attorney at his initial hearing on charges of domestic battery, criminal confinement, and battery. The trial court denied his request at the initial hearing after asking how much money he made, if he had a house or car, and how much money he had in his checking account.

Shively moved to continue his trial and again asked for a court-appointed attorney. A different judge also denied his request. Shively proceeded pro se and was convicted on the charges.

Before sentencing, the trial judge that held the first indigency hearing conducted a more in-depth examination of Shively's finances and then appointed him counsel for sentencing.

While there is no set specific financial guideline for the determination of indigency, the trial court should have done a more thorough inspection of Shively's finances at his first hearing, the appellate court ruled. Both hearings provided just a rough estimate of his finances, and the record shows at his second hearing, Shively's financial situation was much worse. There weren't discussions of his obligations to his children, any debt payments or other fixed obligations, wrote Judge Michael Barnes.

The judge noted it's telling that Shively was appointed counsel after trial but before sentencing and found indigent for the purposes of this appeal. There doesn't appear to be any changes to his financial status between the second pre-trial hearing and the indigency hearing that happened after trial.

"If Shively was indigent for purposes of sentencing and appeal, it is difficult to perceive why he was not indigent for purposes of trial; there does not appear to have been any marked changed in Shively's financial status, particularly between the second pre-trial indigency hearing and the post-trial hearing," he wrote. "Although we understand the reluctance of a trial court to appoint an attorney for one who may be 'gaming the system,' in this instance we do not believe sufficient care was given to a close examination of Shively's financial situation."

Judge Barnes wrote as the case stands now, Shively is still indigent and should be considered so for the purposes of further proceedings on remand unless there is evidence his financial situation has markedly improved.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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