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Court erred in striking state’s response as untimely

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The Indiana Court of Appeals held Wednesday that the post-conviction court erred in striking as untimely the state’s response to a man’s motion for summary judgment on his post-conviction relief petition. The judges also refused to grant the state’s request to hold that it is relieved of the time constraints of Indiana Trial Rule 56.

In State of Indiana v. Antonio Gonzalez-Vazquez, 09A02-1210-PC-792, the state appealed the denial of its motion to correct error challenging the grant of summary judgment to Antonio Gonzalez-Vazquez on his petition for post-conviction relief. Gonzalez-Vazquez alleged he received ineffective assistance of counsel.

Gonzalez-Vazquez’s convictions were affirmed on direct appeal. He filed his petition for post-conviction relief in 2011 and filed his motion for summary judgment pursuant to Trial Rule 56 and Post-Conviction Rule 1(4)(g) on July 17, 2012. The state received his motion by certified mail.

On Aug. 20, the state requested an extension of time to respond; the court gave the state until Aug. 24, when it filed its response. Gonzalez-Vazquez claimed the state’s request for more time and its response were untimely; the state countered that the motion for enlargement of time was timely because the state was entitled to add three days for mail service based on Trial Rule 6(E) and the 33rd day fell on a Sunday.

The post-conviction court rejected the state’s argument and granted summary judgment for Gonzalez-Vazquez. That court excluded the state’s response on the grounds that Rule 6(E) was inapplicable, but that was erroneous as a matter of law, the judges ruled, citing DeLage Landen Fin. Servs. Inc v. Cmty. Mental Health Ctr., 965 N.E.2d 693 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012).

The state also argued that Trial Rule 56(C) and (I) shouldn’t be applicable to post-conviction proceedings because “significant prosecutions could be undone without any basis simply because a prosecutor’s office fails to respond in thirty days.” The state pointed to PCR 1(4)(g) that gives the trial court discretion to consider all pleadings and other matters, whereas Rule 56(C) limits consideration to the designated evidentiary matter.

“We are not in a position to carve out an exception to redress the State’s concern that mere negligence on its part might result in a windfall to a petitioner and a danger to the public,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote.

“Although the State may have a valid concern that a lack of diligent responses in post-conviction proceedings could result in the reversal of some criminal convictions, it would be an extremely rare occasion upon which a petitioner would be able to show an absence of an issue of material fact and further show his entitlement to judgment as a matter of law without a hearing and the presentation of evidence. Indeed, in this particular case, Vazquez focused upon alleged omissions but largely ignored the requirement of showing prejudice. In light of the foregoing, we decline the State’s invitation to hold that it is relieved of the time constraints of Trial Rule 56.”

 

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