ILNews

Court: S.C. decision not retroactive

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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In a case of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today that retroactivity doesn't apply to a year-old Indiana Supreme Court decision that held charging information must be amended within 30 days before the omnibus date.

As a result of the ruling, a Hendricks County man convicted of child molesting doesn't get relief.

At issue in Terry Leatherwood's appeal in Terry Leatherwood v. State of Indiana, No. 32A05-0710-PC-573, is whether the post-conviction court erred in refusing to apply the holding of Fajardo v. State, 859 N.E.2d 1201 (Ind. 2007) to his petition for post-conviction relief.

In late 2001, Leatherwood was charged with several counts of child molesting and the omnibus date was set for Jan. 18, 2002, with trial scheduled for June 10 of that year. The state in May 2002 attempted to amend five additional counts of child molesting, which were dismissed pursuant to a motion by Leatherwood. The state then amended three of the counts, petitioned the court to allow counts four through seven, and the trial court allowed counts four and seven to be filed and amended.

Leatherwood was convicted of all counts of child molesting and sentenced to an aggregate term of 120 years in prison.

Leatherwood appealed in 2003, and the Court of Appeals ruled that allowing the state to file the amended charges after the omnibus date did not prejudice Leatherwood.

But in January 2007, the Indiana Supreme Court issued its Fajardo decision and held that amendments of substance to charging information couldn't be made after 30 days prior to the omnibus date, regardless of a lack of prejudice. Leatherwood, who had filed a post-conviction petition in 2004, amended it to include his claim that the trial court erred in allowing the untimely amendment to his charging information. The post-conviction court denied his petition.

Judge Cale Bradford wrote today that Hendricks Circuit Judge Jeff Boles didn't err when determining Fajardo wasn't retroactive. Because the court's earlier ruling was based on established precedent at the time, it was not erroneous. However, if the court rules Fajardo should be applied retroactively on collateral review, Leatherwood would be entitled to relief, Judge Bradford wrote, relying on the state justices' stance following retroactivity rulings in Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989) and Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302 (1989).

This court cannot apply the analysis found in Teague because the "new" rule - which was determined in Fajardo - is not constitutionally based, so it cannot be considered for retroactive application, Judge Bradford wrote. The rule announced in Fajardo was based solely on language in Indiana Code, not the state or federal constitution, he wrote.

Even looking outside of the Teague framework to determine whether Fajardo can be retroactively applied requires appellate judges to look to Teague for guidance, the judge determined.

"... The Teague framework stands for the proposition that the more compelling the constitutional interest, the more likely that a rule embodying it will be applied retroactively," he wrote. "With this in mind, and in light of the fact that even the most constitutional rules are not given retroactive effect, it follows that those not rooted in any constitutional provision, like the rule announced in Fajardo, should not be given retroactive effect either."

The Court of Appeals affirmed the post-conviction court's refusal to retroactively apply Fajardo to Leatherwood's convictions, resulting in the ultimate denial of any post-conviction relief.
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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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