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Justices affirm denial of killer’s post-conviction relief

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A man originally sentenced to die for the 2006 murders of a mother and her 8- and 13-year-old daughters will continue to serve his converted sentence of life without parole after the Indiana Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon affirmed a trial court’s denial of post-conviction relief.

Daniel Ray Wilkes’ death penalty had been upheld by the state Supreme Court in 2009, but a post-conviction relief court modified the sentence imposed in Clark Circuit Court for the slayings of Donna Claspell, Sydne Claspell, 8, and Avery Pike, 13.

In Daniel Ray Wilkes v. State of Indiana, 10S00-1004-PD-185, justices unanimously rejected Wilkes’ argument that the PCR court deprived him of his right to an impartial jury and effective assistance of counsel.

Wilkes argued that his counsel failed to present potentially exculpatory evidence and that a juror wasn’t asked any questions by his counsel during jury selection.

“The post-conviction court granted the defendant’s request to vacate his death sentence. In thus imposing a sentence of life imprisonment without parole, the court denied the defendant's request for a reversal of his convictions and remand for a new trial based on claims that the defendant received constitutionally ineffective assistance of trial defense counsel; that the defendant was deprived of his right to an impartial jury under the U.S. and Indiana constitutions; and that the defendant was entitled to discovery or in camera review of the mental health records of Juror A's family,” Chief Justice Brent Dickson concluded in the unanimous opinion.

“In his appeal from this latter denial of post-conviction relief, the defendant has not met his burden to obtain appellate relief. He has not established that the post-conviction evidence conclusively points to a conclusion contrary to that of the post-conviction court. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court and the defendant's resulting sentence of life imprisonment without parole.”
 

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