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Court rules on appellate counsel issue in child molesting case

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A decade-old old case from the Indiana Court of Appeals doesn’t apply to child molesting cases, the state’s second highest appellate court has ruled.

In an eight-page decision today in Fred Giddings v. State of Indiana, No. 40A01-0909-PC-455, the intermediate appellate panel explored a post-conviction petition on a Jennings County child molesting case, in which the appellate court on direct appeal in 2001 affirmed five convictions resulting in a 90-year sentence. Following that, Giddings alleged that he had received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel because that attorney hadn’t challenged one of the felony child molesting convictions on the grounds of a potentially non-unanimous verdict.

Despite the fact that the trial counsel hadn’t raised an objection to that issue and the appellate counsel couldn’t be held at fault for what the other lawyer didn’t do, the Court of Appeals found the direct appeal counsel wasn’t ineffective. Fred Giddings had argued that his appellate lawyer wasn’t effective based on Castillo v. State, 734 N. E.2d 299 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000), which relied on a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1999 as sole authority. That federal ruling in Richardson v. United States, 526 U.S. 813, 119 S.Ct. 1707, 143 L.Ed.2d 985 (1999), held that state courts have sometimes permitted jury disagreement in cases involving sexual crimes against a minor, and that those crimes can involve “special difficulties of proving individual underlying criminal acts.”

“These ‘special difficulties’ do not disappear at the time the jury determines what the State has proven; indeed the Richardson court recognized the special difficulties of proving individual criminal acts,” Senior Judge Betty Barteau wrote for the unanimous panel, which included a concurrence in result from Judge Michael Barnes. “We hold that Castillo is not applicable in child molest cases, and appellate counsel was not ineffective for not raising the case and the issue of unanimous verdicts.”
 

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