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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. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  2. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  3. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  4. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  5. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

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