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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. 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)

  2. 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)

  3. 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.

  4. Well, I agree with you that the people need to wake up and see what our judges and politicians have done to our rights and freedoms. This DNA loophole in the statute of limitations is clearly unconstitutional. Why should dna evidence be treated different than video tape evidence for example. So if you commit a crime and they catch you on tape or if you confess or leave prints behind: they only have five years to bring their case. However, if dna identifies someone they can still bring a case even fifty-years later. where is the common sense and reason. Members of congress are corrupt fools. They should all be kicked out of office and replaced by people who respect the constitution.

  5. If the AG could pick and choose which state statutes he defended from Constitutional challenge, wouldn't that make him more powerful than the Guv and General Assembly? In other words, the AG should have no choice in defending laws. He should defend all of them. If its a bad law, blame the General Assembly who presumably passed it with a majority (not the government lawyer). Also, why has there been no write up on the actual legislators who passed the law defining marriage? For all the fuss Democrats have made, it would be interesting to know if some Democrats voted in favor of it (or if some Republican's voted against it). Have a nice day.

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