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Man not prejudiced by counsel's deficient performance

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld the decision to deny a man’s request for post-conviction relief, finding that although his attorney’s performance was deficient for not investigating whether a previous conviction attributed to the defendant was really his, the man couldn’t show he was prejudiced.

Brian Roberts was charged with burglary and theft, and the state filed a motion to add an allegation that Roberts was a habitual offender. The motion included a 1996 burglary conviction that belonged to another Brian Roberts. Roberts told his attorney that the 1996 conviction wasn’t his, but the attorney never investigated the matter.

As part of a plea agreement to Class B felony burglary and Class D felony theft, Roberts’ attorney and the state agreed the state wouldn’t pursue the motion to amend the charging information to add the habitual offender allegation in exchange for Roberts’ guilty plea. There was no written plea agreement presented to the court. Before he was sentenced, Roberts tried to have the guilty plea withdrawn, but the motion was denied and he was sentenced to 20 years with five years suspended.

His sentence was upheld on direct appeal, so Roberts filed a motion for post-conviction relief, claiming that he was told if he didn’t plead guilty, he’d face a 30-year sentence for the habitual offender enhancement. The post-conviction court denied his motion for relief.

In Brian Roberts v. State of Indiana, No. 24A04-1011-PC-726, the Court of Appeals affirmed that Roberts’ plea was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary. He knew the 1996 conviction wasn’t his, so he didn’t believe he was eligible for the enhancement. Therefore, the state’s threat to pursue the amendment to add the habitual offender count couldn’t have been his main motivation to plead guilty, wrote Judge Paul Mathias.

His trial counsel should have investigated whether the 1996 conviction was not Roberts’, but that failure wasn’t so material to his decision to plea guilty because he knew that he was not a habitual offender, the judge continued. Roberts’ attorney was also arguably deficient by allowing Roberts to plead guilty without a written plea agreement, but Roberts didn’t establish prejudice due to his attorney’s deficient performance.

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  • huh?
    let me get this right. he plead in exchange for them to drop the habitual offender charge, which was based on a conviction that wasnt his-- and his lawyer, clueless, told him to take the deal because he never bothered with checking that even though his client told him so? and thats not ineffective assistance of counsel? is it supposed to be effective? he gave up something for nothing and thats not being harmed? wow. Gee I hope I dont draw the wrong lawyer card in Indiana if I ever get in trouble.

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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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