Man not prejudiced by counsel's deficient performance

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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 Before he was sentenced, Roberts tried to have the guilty plea withdrawn, but the motion was denied and he was sentenced to 20 years with five years suspended.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.


  • 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.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.