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Judges affirm denial of post-conviction relief

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The Indiana Court of Appeals declined to find an attorney provided ineffective assistance of trial counsel to a man on trial for the second time because that attorney didn’t defend the case in the same manner as did the attorney on the first trial.

In Keith Woodson v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1108-PC-768, Keith Woodson appealed the denial of post-conviction relief relating to the representation of private attorney Paul Harper at Woodson’s second trial for murder and carrying a handgun without a license. Woodson was represented by private attorney Kimberly DeVane at his first trial, which resulted in a mistrial. DeVane withdrew her representation on the second trial due to payment concerns.

Unlike what DeVane did at the first trial, Harper didn’t question either of the two eyewitnesses on specific matters, such as their having told a detective that the person they identified as the shooter was known as “PG,” which is Woodson’s nickname. At the second trial, the state was able to present additional evidence it didn’t have at the first trial provided by an acquaintance of Woodson’s. Shelby Stone was being transported with Woodson from jail to court and claimed that Woodson told him something about the murder that would mean Woodson murdered the victim as revenge. Woodson was found guilty at his second trial.

“An argument could be made that Harper’s cross-examination of Owens and Johnson was not as thorough as DeVane’s in the first trial. However, our job here is not to grade Harper’s performance as compared to DeVane’s,” wrote Judge Michael Barnes. “Additionally, juries are not interchangeable machines but instead are made up of twelve unique individuals, and there was nothing precluding the second jury from weighing the evidence differently than the first jury.”

The appellate court found that Harper did question the eyewitnesses extensively on their identification of Woodson as the killer, and he did attempt to impeach their credibility, just not in the same manner as DeVane, wrote the judge.

The COA also declined to find that Harper was ineffective for failing to procure the services of an eyewitness identification expert to assist with and testify at the second trial.  

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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