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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. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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