Court grants transfer in prisoner suit

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving whether a man's request challenging his prison detainment should have been treated as post-conviction relief or a writ of habeas corpus.

Justices granted transfer late last week in Floyd Tewell v. State of Indiana, No. 48A02-0701-PC-118, which comes after a Nov. 5, 2007, decision from the Court of Appeals that had affirmed a ruling from Madison Superior Judge Thomas Newman Jr.

The appeal stems from the court's denial of Tewell's petition for writ of habeas corpus, which the court had treated as a petition for post-conviction relief. Convicted of kidnapping and rape in the mid-1970s, Tewell had been sentenced to life imprisonment on the kidnapping conviction plus 20 years for the rape conviction. The parole board turned over the life sentence to 20 years in 1989 and he later earned parole in 1994. But a few years later, Tewell was arrested on drug charges and sentenced, and the parole board reinstated his life sentence.

Tewell filed a writ of habeas corpus in 2006, but the post-conviction court treated it as a PCR request and denied relief, granting the state's motion for summary disposition. He appealed on grounds that the court wrongly considered the petition as a request for post-conviction relief and also that the court wrongly found the parole board didn't discharge him from a life sentence.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court, relying on a 2001 ruling in which it wrote that the purpose of the writ of habeas corpus is to bring the person in custody before the court for inquiry into the cause of restraint "only if he is entitled to an immediate release from an unlawful custody."

Appellate judges also determined that the life sentence wasn't discharged because Tewell hadn't been released on parole for his life sentence before turning it over to 20 years.

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