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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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