ILNews

Supreme Court rules on belated appeals

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer Thursday to two cases dealing with belated appeals.

The high court granted transfer with opinion in Demond Hughes v. State of Indiana, No. 49S04-0802-CR-86. At issue was whether Hughes was allowed to file a belated appeal to challenge the appropriateness of his 40-year concurrent sentence. Hughes pleaded guilty to felony murder and Class A misdemeanor reckless possession of a handgun. Initially, the trial court sentenced Hughes to a 50-year concurrent sentence, with five years suspended. Hughes later obtained post-conviction relief reducing his sentence to 40 years - and retaining the five-year suspension - because the correct presumptive sentence for the date of the offense was 40 years. Hughes had filed for relief because he held the trial court didn't correctly weigh the aggravating and mitigating factors.

Six years after his sentence was reduced, Hughes filed a request to commence a belated appeal because he wanted his sentence reviewed for appropriateness "upon learning of his appellate rights." The trial court granted his motion, ruling Hughes had been diligent in seeking relief.

However, Hughes' belated appeal is moot because at his guilty-plea hearing, he was advised he gave up the right to direct appeal and the sentence was modified because the presumptive sentence should have been 40 years, wrote Justice Brent Dickson.

In his current appeal, Hughes is trying to relitigate the issue of the trial court not identifying all of the mitigating and aggravating factors in order to sentence him. The Supreme Court affirms the sentence imposed by the trial court after Hughes' post-conviction relief because his claim is barred by procedural default - a defendant may not by belated appeal religitate a sentence challenged previously in post-conviction relief, wrote Justice Dickson.

The Supreme Court also granted transfer and a remand by order in David Ohm v. State of Indiana, No. 79A02-0712-CR-336. The Supreme Court granted transfer to decide whether the Court of Appeals properly dismissed a belated appeal initiated by Ohm. Ohm pleaded guilty to two counts of murder in an open plea agreement and was sentenced to a term of 60 years executed. Sixteen years later, Ohm argued his enhanced sentence was improper and was granted permission by the trial court to file a belated notice of appeal pursuant to Indiana Post-Conviction Rule 2(1).

The Court of Appeals determined that Ohm had not been diligent in pursing the belated appeal and dismissed it without addressing the merits of his arguments relating to his sentence.

In the order authored by Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, the high court vacated the Court of Appeals opinion and remanded to the appellate court for consideration on the merits of Ohm's appellate arguments.

"Considering particular circumstances of this case, which include that the State did not object to the belated appeal, the appeal was fully briefed on the merits, and Ohm did not have any reason to brief the issue of whether the trial court abused its discretion, we believe consideration of the merits of this direct appeal by the Court of Appeals is appropriate," Chief Justice Shepard wrote.
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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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