ILNews

Man can’t challenge sentence as illegal

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Because a defendant entered into a beneficial plea agreement, the Indiana Court of Appeals denied his request for post-conviction relief. The man argued that a Supreme Court decision handed down while he was appealing should require that his sentence be reduced.

Robertson Fowler was charged with Class B felony unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, Class D felonies pointing a firearm and resisting law enforcement, and being a habitual offender. He agreed to plead guilty to the possession charge and habitual offender enhancement in exchange for his sentenced being capped at 35 years. He faced a maximum of 56 years on the charges.

The judge sentenced Fowler to 15 years each on the possession charge and the habitual offender enhancement. When he entered the agreement, the law allowed the state to use the same prior felony to support a charge of unlawful possession by a SVF and to support a habitual offender enhancement.

Fowler appealed his sentence, and while he still could have filed a reply brief, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled on Mills v. State, 868 N.E.2d 446, 450 (Ind. 2007), which prohibits the state from using the same felony to establish unlawful possession by a SVF and to enhance the sentence under the general habitual offender statute.  Fowler’s attorney didn’t cite Mills in any additional filings. Fowler’s sentence was affirmed on appeal and his post-conviction petition for relief was denied.

The Court of Appeals declined to grant him relief because it ruled Fowler benefited from the plea agreement. Fowler argued that he didn’t benefit because the maximum sentence he faced would have been 26 years based on Mills, and he agreed to plead guilty and was sentenced to 30 years.

“We must decline Fowler’s invitation to measure his ‘benefit’ at a time after he entered into the plea agreement,” Judge Melissa May wrote in Robertson Fowler v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1202-PC-68. “Where a defendant enters a plea of guilty knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily, there is no compelling reason to set aside the conviction on the ground the sentence was later determined to be invalid.”

The appellate court also declined to adopt the state’s apparent position that post-conviction relief is never available when appellate counsel does not testify in the post-conviction proceedings. The state claimed it’s possible the attorney had reasons for not pursuing a claim.

 

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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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