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Trial in absentia did not violate due process

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The due process rights of a man charged with two counts of Class C felony non-support of a dependent child were not violated when he was tried in absentia and without trial counsel, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

In Ronald B. Hawkins v. State of Indiana, 20A03-1112-CR-579, Ronald Hawkins appealed his convictions, arguing that he was denied due process when he was tried in absentia and without trial counsel, that his presence at sentencing by video only was erroneous, that the trial court improperly entered judgment on both counts as Class C felonies, and that the trial court abused its discretion in imposing consecutive sentences.

Hawkins failed to appear at a hearing concerning his counsel’s motion to withdraw. He was given notice that his public defender’s motion would be granted if he failed to appear at a reset meeting, and he did not appear. Hawkins, who traveled from North Carolina to Indiana for his jury trial, arrived several hours late and missed the proceedings.

“We find that the facts addressed by the Indiana Supreme Court in Jackson (v. State, 868 N.E.2d 494, 499 (Ind. 2007)), in which waiver of the right to counsel was found, are close enough to dictate the same result here,” the opinion states.

Hawkins waived for appellate review his argument that it was improper to sentence him via videoconference. The COA affirmed in part, ruling that Hawkins’ due process rights weren’t violated; reversed in part, addressing issues involving convictions and sentencing; and remanded the case.

“The trial court did not abuse its discretion in imposing consecutive sentences,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote. “The trial court, however, erred in entering both convictions as Class C felonies. We remand with instructions to reduce one of Hawkins’s Class C felony non-support of a dependent child convictions to a Class D felony and impose the advisory sentence, to be served consecutive to the sentence for the remaining Class C felony, for an aggregate sentence of five and one-half years.”

Judge Terry Crone concurred, while Judge Nancy Vaidik concurred in part and dissented with opinion.

Vaidik disagreed with the majority conclusion that Hawkins knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waived his right to counsel.

“Because I believe that the facts in this case are readily distinguishable from the facts in Jackson and because of the importance of an attorney for a fair proceeding, I would reverse the trial court on this issue,” she wrote.

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

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