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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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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