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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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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