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7th Circuit denies habeas relief in 2005 Gary murder

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A man convicted of murder for the 2005 shooting death of a 15-year-old on a Gary street wasn’t prejudiced by his attorney’s refusal to object to a prosecutor’s comments about the defendant’s failure to testify, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

The panel affirmed U.S. District Judge James Moody’s dismissal of a habeas petition in the District Court, Northern District of Indiana, South Bend. Tommy D. Ford was convicted in Lake Superior Court of the murder of Christian Hodge in a second trial after the first ended in a hung jury. Ford was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

“Ford contends that an objection would have been sustained because the prosecutor’s comments violated his Fifth Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination,” Circuit Judge John Tinder wrote for the panel in Tommy D. Ford v. Bill Wilson, Superintendent, 12-3844. “However, even assuming that to be true, Ford has failed to show prejudice resulting from his attorney’s failure to object.”

Ford’s petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 fails, Tinder wrote, because “the strength of … evidence negates any reasonable probability that the outcome of Ford’s trial would have been different absent the prosecutor’s comments.”

The panel did find, though, that the Indiana Court of Appeals applied the wrong standard in denying Ford’s petition for post-conviction relief. But citing Ruhl v. Hardy, 743 F.3d 1083, 1091 (7th Cir. 2014), the panel found misapplication of the standard doesn’t in itself permit relief because “the court’s application must have been more than incorrect; it must have been objectively unreasonable.”

Writing for the panel, Tinder concluded, “Although the Indiana Court of Appeals applied the wrong legal standard to Ford’s claim, when we apply the correct standard, we get the same result. Even assuming the performance of Ford’s trial counsel was deficient, there is no reasonable probability that adequate performance would have changed the outcome of Ford’s trial.”

 

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  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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