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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 Before he was sentenced, Roberts tried to have the guilty plea withdrawn, but the motion was denied and he was sentenced to 20 years with five years suspended.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. Oh, the name calling was not name calling, it was merely social commentary making this point, which is on the minds of many, as an aside to the article's focus: https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100111082327AAmlmMa Or, if you prefer a local angle, I give you exhibit A in that analysis of viva la difference: http://fox59.com/2015/03/16/moed-appears-on-house-floor-says-hes-not-resigning/

  2. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  3. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  4. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  5. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

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