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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. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  2. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

  3. This outbreak illustrates the absurdity of the extreme positions taken by today's liberalism, specifically individualism and the modern cult of endless personal "freedom." Ebola reminds us that at some point the person's own "freedom" to do this and that comes into contact with the needs of the common good and "freedom" must be curtailed. This is not rocket science, except, today there is nonstop propaganda elevating individual preferences over the common good, so some pundits have a hard time fathoming the obvious necessity of quarantine in some situations....or even NATIONAL BORDERS...propagandists have also amazingly used this as another chance to accuse Western nations of "racism" which is preposterous and offensive. So one the one hand the idolatry of individualism has to stop and on the other hand facts people don't like that intersect with race-- remain facts nonetheless. People who respond to facts over propaganda do better in the long run. We call it Truth. Sometimes it seems hard to find.

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  5. I am saddened to hear about the loss of Zeff Weiss. He was an outstanding member of the Indianapolis legal community. My thoughts are with his family.

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