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Court split on ineffective trial counsel

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A panel of Indiana Court of Appeals judges disagreed that an attorney was ineffective because the majority found the attorney told her client he "should" win the case whereas one judge pointed out in the record the attorney admitted to telling the client he "would" win.

"Based upon the record, I conclude that Rowe demonstrated that his trial counsel's ineffective performance affected the outcome of the plea process and that there is a reasonable probability that, but for trial counsel's errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different," wrote Judge Elaine Brown in her dissent in Terry Rowe, Jr. v. State of Indiana, No. 32A04-0904-PC-186.

Terry Rowe was charged with two counts of Class B felony dealing in cocaine and one count of Class A felony dealing in cocaine after he purchased drugs from a confidential informant. There were police video and audio tapes of the controlled buys. After the confidential informant died, the state offered Rowe a plea agreement. On the advice of his counsel, he declined. He was convicted in a bench trial and given a longer sentence than the plea agreement offered.

His attorney - who was just out of law school and hadn't tried a Class A felony case - told Rowe she thought it would be difficult for the state to prove its case without the informant. According to the record, she testified she told Rowe that he "should" win the case and that he "would" win the case.

The majority agreed with post-conviction court's denial of Rowe's petition for relief because there's evidence to support the post-conviction court's finding the attorney's performance was reasonable, wrote Judge Terry Crone. The judge noted that different interpretations of the record are possible, but the majority couldn't say the post-conviction court's findings and conclusions were clearly erroneous.

Judge Brown wrote Rowe's trial counsel didn't adequately investigate his case and told him that he'd win. In addition to the record showing the attorney testifying she said Rowe would win the case, she also admitted she didn't depose any members of the Drug Task Force before telling Rowe he'd be successful at trial.

Rowe testified he rejected the agreement based on his attorney's advice and if he knew he could have been convicted based on the evidence he would have accepted the plea agreement.

The appellate court also addressed the state's argument that to establish prejudice, Rowe must show that he would have accepted the plea agreement had he known there was a possibility of conviction without the confidential informant, and the trial court would have accepted the plea agreement. Citing Lessig v. State, 489 N.E.2d 978, 983 (Ind. Ct. App. 1986), the Court of Appeals, without addressing the merits as applied to the instant case, held the correct reading of Lessig is that a defendant must put forth evidence that the trial court is legally permitted to accept his plea agreement.

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  1. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

  2. Unfortunately, the court doesn't understand the difference between ebidta and adjusted ebidta as they clearly got the ruling wrong based on their misunderstanding

  3. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

  4. I am one of Steele's victims and was taken for $6,000. I want my money back due to him doing nothing for me. I filed for divorce after a 16 year marriage and lost everything. My kids, my home, cars, money, pension. Every attorney I have talked to is not willing to help me. What can I do? I was told i can file a civil suit but you have to have all of Steelers info that I don't have. Of someone can please help me or tell me what info I need would be great.

  5. It would appear that news breaking on Drudge from the Hoosier state (link below) ties back to this Hoosier story from the beginning of the recent police disrespect period .... MCBA president Cassandra Bentley McNair issued the statement on behalf of the association Dec. 1. The association said it was “saddened and disappointed” by the decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown. “The MCBA does not believe this was a just outcome to this process, and is disheartened that the system we as lawyers are intended to uphold failed the African-American community in such a way,” the association stated. “This situation is not just about the death of Michael Brown, but the thousands of other African-Americans who are disproportionately targeted and killed by police officers.” http://www.thestarpress.com/story/news/local/2016/07/18/hate-cops-sign-prompts-controversy/87242664/

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