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Supreme Court takes closer reading of precedent in affirming post-conviction relief

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A man’s 2002 guilty plea to a habitual traffic violator offense will be set aside after the Indiana Supreme Court held his 1989 conviction in Fayette County constituted a material error.
 
Russell Oney pleaded guilty in Marion Superior Court in 2002 to operating a vehicle while suspended as a HTV, a Class D felony. His designation as a HTV arose from his three operating a vehicle while intoxicated convictions.

Eight years after his guilty plea, Oney challenged his 1989 OWI conviction, alleging impropriety of the trial judge and violation of his right to counsel. The state did not oppose Oney’s petition for post-conviction relief and even entered into a joined “Agreed Entry of Post-Conviction Relief.”

The post-conviction court vacated the 1989 OWI conviction. Then Oney filed a motion to set aside his 2002 guilty plea. The trial court granted the motion, but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed.

In arguing against the trial court’s ruling, the state asserted granting Oney’s motion contravened the precedent of the Supreme Court set forth in State v. Starks, 816 N.E.2d 32 (Ind. 2004). In that case, the Supreme Court held despite Starks’ guilty plea being set aside, he was not entitled to post-conviction relief.

Writing for the court, Justice Robert Rucker pointed out Starks was not entitled to post-conviction relief because the underlying OWI offense was vacated because of a procedural error.  

“But Starks cannot be read as standing for the proposition that the possibility of relief is forever foreclosed,” Rucker wrote. “Instead the Court declared: ‘[Although] it is not a sufficient basis for relief that the underlying offense has been set aside on procedural grounds’ however ‘if the person successfully demonstrates either to the BMV or to the court…that a ‘material error’ has occurred then the person is afforded the opportunity to pursue post-conviction relief.’”

In State of Indiana v. Russell Oney, 49A05-1212-CR-668, the Supreme Court found the Fayette County judge’s acceptance of the 1989 plea was a material error. While Oney initially maintained his innocence, he accepted the plea after repeatedly being urged by  the judge to do so.

The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment, ruling the guilty plea and judgment conviction were voidable on the basis the underlying offense was vacated.


 

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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