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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. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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