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Judges order new PCR hearing on guilty plea issue

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed in part the denial of a man’s pro se petition for post-conviction relief, holding the post-conviction court’s findings didn’t support its rejection of the man’s claim his plea was illusory or involuntary.

Ricky Graham pleaded guilty to dealing in a narcotic drug as a Class B felony in exchange for the dismissal of other charges, including a habitual-offender charge. Graham argued that his plea was illusory and involuntary because it was motivated by the improper threat of a 30-year habitual-offender enhancement. The state conceded on appeal his dealing charge couldn’t have been enhanced under the general habitual-offender statute.

Graham also challenged whether there was a sufficient factual basis for his guilty plea and whether he received effective assistance of trial and appellate counsel.

In Ricky E. Graham v. State of Indiana, No. 22A01-1008-PC-392, the appellate judges address several procedural issues before turning to the merits of the case. They noted the state faulted Graham for not introducing the record related to his trial and guilty plea at the PCR hearing in support of his claims. But the trial court didn’t introduce any of the records Graham brought and said they could get the transcripts from the Superior Court records.

“It is true that Graham did not insist that the materials he brought to the hearing be introduced into evidence. Still, if a party in a PCR proceeding provides the original trial record (or a part thereof) to the PCR court, the PCR court should proactively ensure that the record is officially entered into evidence as an exhibit, so that the trial record is transmitted to this court in the event of an appeal and to avoid claims of waiver for failing to submit the trial record to the PCR court,” wrote Judge Michael Barnes. “Otherwise, there is the danger of converting a procedural technicality into a trap for unsuspecting litigants, which we emphatically discourage.”

Graham also alleged ineffective assistance of trial counsel and it was up to the PCR court to issue any subpoenas on his behalf. The judges declined to address his ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim because they ultimately remanded for further proceedings.

The judges affirmed there was a sufficient factual basis for Graham’s guilty plea and that he didn’t receive ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. But the appellate court remanded his case to the PCR court on the issue of whether his guilty plea was illusory and involuntary. The Court of Appeals relied on Segura v. State, 749 N.E.2d 496 (Ind. 2001), and Willoughby v. State, 792 N.E.2d 560, 564 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003), to hold that the standard they set out dealing with ineffective assistance of counsel claims is equally applicable to straightforward claims of an involuntary or illusory plea, wrote Judge Barnes.

“Ultimately, there is evidence here that the trial court itself advised Graham at the guilty plea hearing that he was facing a possible maximum fifty-year sentence if he did not plead guilty. Such an advisement arguably would overshadow any advice Graham had received from trial counsel regarding the validity of the habitual offender enhancement,” wrote the judge.

The judges found the PCR court’s findings don’t support its rejection of Graham’s claim his plea was illusory or involuntary. They remanded for consideration of whether there exist facts that meet the Segura standard for setting aside a guilty plea based on the clearly improper threat of a habitual-offender sentence enhancement. Also on remand, the PCR should consider the effectiveness of his trial counsel should Graham resubmit his subpoena request for his trial counsel to appear at the new hearing.
 

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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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