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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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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