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Man entitled to new trial based on trial counsel’s performance

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A man convicted on a drug dealing charge and found to be a serious violent felon will have a new trial because his trial attorney did not file a motion to bifurcate the dealing and SVF charges, which prejudiced him, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

Vance R. Pace appealed the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, in which he sought to set aside his convictions of Class B felonies dealing in amphetamine and unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. The charges stem from his arrest by Goshen police after they discovered drugs and a gun in the car Pace was riding in, as well as a large amount of cash on Pace.

Pace’s attorney, Juan Garcia Jr., did not request that the dealing charge be bifurcated from the SVF charge at trial. The jury heard, without objection from Pace, about his prior conviction for dealing cocaine as an element of the SVF charge, and other evidence and references were introduced during trial regarding that 1992 conviction. Pace was sentenced to 30 years total on the two charges.

Pace appealed, but his convictions were upheld. He then filed his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing ineffective assistance of trial counsel, Garcia, and appellate counsel, attorney Michael Greene. Pace’s petition was denied.

In Vance R. Pace v. State of Indiana, 20A03-1206-PC-378, the Court of Appeals found that Garcia’s performance was deficient enough to warrant a new trial. Nearly a year before Pace’s trial, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled on Hines v. State, 801 N.E.2d 634 (Ind. 2004), which held it was an error to refuse a defendant’s request to bifurcate a trial where there is an SVF charge and another unrelated felony. Garcia admitted at the post-conviction relief hearing that there was “no benefit” for the jury to hear that Pace had previously been convicted as a drug dealer, but didn’t file the motion because he thought Pace had a better chance proceeding with both charges at the same time.

The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court would have granted a motion to bifurcate and Pace was prejudiced by Garcia’s deficient performance because the jury heard evidence of Pace’s prior dealing conviction when determining if he was guilty of the current dealing charge.

Because they found that Pace’s trial attorney’s performance required a new trial, the judges did not discuss Pace’s claims regarding his appellate attorney.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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