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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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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