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Judge: Man did not knowingly waive right to counsel

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An Indiana Court of Appeals judge raised six points in a dissent Monday as to why he disagreed with his colleagues’ decision to affirm the revocation of a man’s probation based on the conclusion that the defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his right to counsel.

In Vincent M. Butler, Jr. v. State of Indiana, No. 84A01-1008-CR-414, Judges Nancy Vaidik and Paul Mathias found because Vincent Butler admitted he violated his probation, the trial court wasn’t required to warn him of the dangers of self-representation in order to establish a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his right to counsel. They found the record showed the trial court adequately advised Butler of his right to counsel and he knowingly waived that right.

Butler pleaded guilty to five counts of Class D felony theft and was sentenced to one year executed and four years suspended to probation. Because of credit time served, he was immediately placed on probation. Three months later, the state filed a petition to revoke his probation for several reasons, including he tested positive for drugs and alcohol.

At his hearing, the trial judge told Butler he could have a lawyer represent him and one would be appointed if he couldn’t afford it. Butler declined an attorney and said he understood he had a right to a lawyer. He then admitted to violating the terms of his probation after the judge asked whether he admitted or denied violating probation. The trial court found he admitted violating probation and at a later hearing revoked his probation and ordered him to serve the remaining four years of his sentence in the Department of Correction.

The majority relied on Greer v. State, 690 N.E.2d 1214, 1217 (Ind. Ct. App. 1998), to uphold the lower court’s decision, although Judge Vaidik did point out in a footnote that their reliance on the case is called into question by the Indiana Supreme Court decision in Hopper v. State, 934 N.E.2d 1086, in which the justices recently granted a petition for rehearing on.

The judges also pointed out Butler’s extensive criminal history and experience with the criminal justice system. He has had his probation revoked multiple times, and the fact he did ask for and receive appellate counsel shows that he knew how to exercise his right to an attorney when he so desired, wrote Judge Vaidik.

Judge Kirsch dissented on these two points. He found this case not similar to Greer in that the defendant in that case voluntarily admitted that he planned on pleading guilty while the trial court was advising him of his right to counsel, whereas in the instant case, Butler didn’t admit to the violation until questioned by the judge.

He also disagreed with the majority regarding Butler’s criminal history being used to support his wavier of counsel was knowing, intelligent and voluntary. There’s no evidence that career criminals generally or Butler specifically possess a specialized legal knowledge rendering them capable of making a voluntary waiver of their rights in the absence of a full and adequate disclosure of the importance of those rights, wrote Judge Kirsch.

“Indeed, the conclusion could be easily drawn that an extensive criminal history is more likely reflective of the lack of critical thinking skills, not their presence,” he wrote.

He also dissented because he believed the Supreme Court abrogated Greer in Hopper,  the trial judge never determined Butler’s competency, he wasn’t made aware of the perils of self-representation, and the record is unclear as to the extent of which of his admissions was qualified and equivocal.
 

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  1. For many years this young man was "family" being my cousin's son. Then he decided to ignore my existence and that of my daughter who was very hurt by his actions after growing up admiring, Jason. Glad he is doing well, as for his opinion, if you care so much you wouldn't ignore the feelings of those who cared so much about you for years, Jason.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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