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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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