7th Circuit: Attorney’s deficient performance prejudiced defendant

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Finding that an appellate attorney opted for a “hopeless sufficiency challenge” instead of the obvious claim challenging the validity of an amended information that elevated a charge to murder, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the denial by the federal court of the man’s petition for writ of habeas corpus.

Troy Shaw was 18 years old in 2000 when he was working selling magazine subscriptions as part of a traveling team. His group was staying in a hotel when several of the team members attacked an uninvited stranger in the room. The man was chased outside and beaten to death. Shaw and two other men were charged with aggravated battery, although Shaw denied being involved in the attack. The two other men agreed to testify against Shaw, which led to the state seeking to elevate his charge from aggravated battery to murder.

Shaw’s trial attorney challenged the amendment of the information, claiming it was barred under basis of Indiana Code 35-34-1-5 (1982), a statute that had long limited prosecutors’ discretion to amend pending charges. The version of the statute then in effect specified that an amendment of “substance” could be made up to 30 days before the “omnibus date” and an amendment of mere “form” could be made even later if not prejudicial. The amendment wasn’t proposed in Shaw’s case until 17 months later, but the trial court allowed it.

Shaw was convicted and public defender Gregory Miller handled his appeal. Instead of raising the amendment issue, Miller instead argued that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. Shaw’s conviction was upheld on appeal and by the post-conviction court. He then sought relief in federal court, which denied his habeas petition.

In Troy R. Shaw v. Bill Wilson, 12-1628, the 7th Circuit reversed the denial of Shaw’s petition, finding Shaw was prejudiced by Miller’s choice of reasoning on appeal.

“The bottom line is that attorney Miller was faced with two potential arguments, one undeniably frivolous and the other solidly based on a state statute and reinforced by the Indiana Supreme Court’s pronouncement in Haak. In the face of this choice, Miller opted for the hopeless sufficiency challenge,” Judge Diane Wood wrote.

“Once again, it is necessary only to conclude that the amendment issue was clearly stronger than the sufficiency argument, and we have no trouble coming to that conclusion based on both the language of the statute and the Indiana Supreme Court’s Haak decision.”

Shaw demonstrated prejudice as he had a reasonable chance of success on appeal but for Miller’s deficient performance. The court remanded with instructions to issue a writ of habeas corpus unless the state grants Shaw a new appeal within 120 days after issuance of the mandate.


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  1. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  2. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  3. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  4. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  5. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well