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Overwhelming evidence of guilt trumps defendant’s post-conviction claims

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The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a northern Indiana man’s life without parole sentence for killing a police officer in 1997, finding the post-conviction court did not err when it denied him a new trial.

Gregory Dickens was 16 years old when he shot and killed Corporal Paul Deguch on a porch after Deguch approached Dickens believing he had a stolen bicycle. A jury found Dickens guilty, and the trial court imposed the life sentence upon recommendation of the jury.

Dickens sought a new trial on three grounds: there was newly discovered evidence; the state withheld evidence from the defense in violation of Brady v. Maryland, and his trial counsel was ineffective.

Dickens claimed a report issued by the National Research Counsel completed after his trial established the previously accepted and relied upon comparative bullet lead analysis conducted by the FBI was unreliable. This would render inadmissible testimony from FBI forensic examiner Charles Peters about the CBLA conducted on bullets at his trial.

“The post-conviction court found that in light of the findings contained in the NRC report, Peters’s testimony regarding the CBLA would not likely be admissible at retrial. Although the exclusion of the CBLA evidence might have weakened the State’s case, Dickens has not shown that the exclusion of the CBLA evidence, without more, would make it probable that a different result would be produced at retrial,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote in Gregory Dickens v. State of Indiana, 71A03-1304-PC-101.

The state was able to provided overwhelming evidence – including eyewitness testimony – to prove Dickens’ guilt, the court noted. This evidence also overrides his claim that the state knew about the reliability problems of the CBLA but didn’t inform his trial counsel, which led to a reasonable probability that the trial would have a different outcome.

The judges also found his trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to object to Dickens’ wearing of a stun belt during trial. He had a history of violence and attempted flight from police.

“Unlike shackles, which when worn are readily visible, a stun belt is worn under clothing and is, in most cases, unlikely to be visible to the members of the jury. Here, nothing in the record suggests that any member of the jury actually saw the stun belt,” Bradford wrote.
 

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