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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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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