ILNews

Justices set execution in stun-belt restraint case

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The Indiana Supreme Court has denied a condemned inmate's challenge to his death sentence and set a date for what would be the state's first execution in more than two years.

Issuing an order on a post-conviction relief request, justices decided 4-1 to deny the claims in Matthew Eric Wrinkles v. State of Indiana, No. 82S00-0905-SD-249. Wrinkles was convicted and sentenced to die for the murders of his wife, her brother, and her sister-in-law in July 1994. The convictions and sentences have been upheld at the state and federal appellate levels, including claims that Wrinkles had been forced to wear a stun-belt restraint at trial. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up that issue.

In his filing for successive post-conviction relief, Wrinkles argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel during the guilt and sentencing phases of trial because his attorney did not object to the stun-belt restraint, which may have been visible to jurors. However, the majority of justices determined Wrinkles did not adequately establish a reasonable possibility that he's entitled to post-conviction relief.

Justice Theodore Boehm was the lone dissenter, writing his own opinion that says he would grant Wrinkle's request for a successive post-conviction hearing, as long as it's limited to the determination of whether the penalty phase was held in violation of the 14th Amendment.

"Because I believe the resolution of this case is far from simple, and involves the interplay among several legal doctrines, I attempt to summarize my reasoning at the outset," he wrote, before penning six pages of a dissent.

"A convicted person gets only one opportunity to raise a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment. Wrinkles has already presented a claim of ineffective assistance," Justice Boehm wrote. "In an ordinary case, that would preclude revisiting that issue. This is a death penalty case, however, and the claim relates only to the penalty, not conviction as to which the lack of prejudice seems clear. I would not permit a death sentence to be carried out without assuring that it has been imposed in accordance with the law."

Without any stay of execution in place, justices issued a separate order setting the lethal injection for before sunrise on Dec. 11.

If the execution goes forward without intervention by federal courts or Gov. Mitch Daniels, then Wrinkles would be the first person executed in Indiana since June 2007 - when Michael Lambert received a lethal injection for the killing of a Muncie police officer almost two decades earlier. In total, 19 people have been executed in Indiana since the state brought back the death penalty - eight since Daniels took office in 2005.

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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