ILNews

Plea can't be challenged with new evidence

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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In a case of first impression, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled a guilty plea can't be challenged in post-conviction proceedings by a claim of newly discovered evidence regarding the events making up the crime.

In Shawn E. Norris v. State of Indiana, No. 43S03-0807-CR-379, Shawn Norris appealed the post-conviction court's grant of the state's motion for summary disposition on Norris' petition for post-conviction relief. Norris pleaded guilty four years earlier to molesting his sister's child, served his sentence, and then later filed the petition for relief on grounds of newly discovered evidence. His sister, whose allegations resulted in the child molesting charges against Norris, recanted her story and said that because of Norris' limited mental capacity, she could convince him to say anything she wanted him to believe.

Norris believed these submissions from his sister entitled him to an evidentiary hearing on his petition for post-conviction relief. He wanted the court to set aside and vacate his conviction.

Here, Norris is seeking to undermine the sanctity of his own guilty plea by challenging the facts presented to the police that led to his arrest; he isn't contesting testimonial evidence at the trial that resulted in determination of guilt notwithstanding a not-guilty plea. Indiana's post-conviction procedures don't expressly address that distinction, wrote Justice Brent Dickson.

"It is inconsistent to allow defendants who pleaded guilty to use post-conviction proceedings to later revisit the integrity of their plea in light of alleged new evidence seeking to show that they were in fact not guilty. Both his confession and his new claims cannot be true," wrote the justice.

With the acceptance of his guilty plea, Norris waived the right to present evidence regarding guilt or innocence. A defendant can have recourse to post-conviction proceedings to seek to withdraw his guilty plea whenever the guilty plea wasn't knowingly and voluntarily made, but Norris isn't asserting that claim, wrote Justice Dickson.

Justices Theodore Boehm and Robert Rucker concurred in a separate opinion, agreeing Norris hadn't shown the post-conviction court erred in dismissing his petition, but the two justices don't agree that a guilty plea precludes a court from granting post-conviction relief on a claim of actual innocence. Justice Boehm gives the example of a defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge in the face of highly persuasive but not conclusive evidence of guilt in a crime carrying a higher penalty.

"The interest of justice surely requires overturning a conviction of an innocent person," he wrote.

But, in the instant case, Norris didn't present evidence that meets the standards required by Post-Conviction Rule 1(a)(4), therefore there isn't enough to overcome the strong presumption that a guilty plea is in fact a truthful admission of guilt, he wrote.
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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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