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7th Circuit denies convicted murderer habeas relief

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An Indiana man who was denied habeas relief, arguing his trial attorney was ineffective for not trying to suppress as evidence clothing he had given to police after his arrest, lost his appeal before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday.

Tyrone L. Jones was convicted of murder and other charges related to the death of Sam Alexander in Indianapolis. Jones was allegedly the last person to see Alexander alive. A witness saw him with Alexander’s television, which Jones had pawned. He also attempted to pawn Alexander’s microwave.

Police found Alexander dead in his apartment with his hands bound. When Jones was brought to police headquarters for questioning by Detective Charles Benner, Jones signed a form that contained sections of advice of rights and waiver of rights. Jones agreed to give Benner his shoes and clothing. The shoe print of Jones’ shoe was the same as one that appeared on a pillowcase in the house.

Jones appealed his convictions, which were upheld, and then sought post-conviction relief in state court. He claimed ineffective assistance of trial counsel based on his attorneys’ failure to object to the admission of the evidence related to the seizure of his shoes on the basis of Pirtle v. State, 323 N.E.2d. 634 (Ind. 1975).  The post-conviction court concluded that Jones had voluntarily surrendered the clothing. The Court of Appeals denied his claim, finding the mere admission of his shoes or clothing did not prejudice him.

“Here, Detective Benner’s request for Mr. Jones’s shoes fits comfortably within the category of searches to which Pirtle does not apply. It was limited in scope and was minimally intrusive – certainly less so than a blood sample or even a cheek swab. Mr. Jones has not come forward with any examples of Indiana cases that have required Pirtle warnings in circumstances similar to his, nor is there any indication that Indiana courts are inclined to extend the rule of Pirtle to apply in such circumstances,” Judge Kenneth Ripple wrote in Tyrone L. Jones v. Richard Brown, 12-3245.

“In the present case, had Mr. Jones’s counsel moved to suppress the shoes, or any evidence that resulted from the testing of the shoes, on the basis of Pirtle, we believe that the state court would have denied that motion. Consequently, trial counsel’s failure to press an unavailing argument based on Pirtle was not ‘outside the wide range of professionally competent assistance’ that Strickland allows, and trial counsel was not constitutionally ineffective.”

“By determining that Mr. Jones had not established that the admission of inculpatory evidence was the result of any Pirtle error, the Court of Appeals of Indiana reasonably concluded that the second, so-called prejudice prong of Strickland had not been satisfied. Consequently, on habeas review, we cannot conclude that Mr. Jones was prejudiced by any failure of his trial counsel,” Ripple wrote.
 

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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