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Vigo court too hasty in tossing killer’s pro se PCR petition, panel rules

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A man convicted of murder who represented himself in his post-conviction relief proceeding was wrongly denied a chance to plead his case, a panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday. The court reversed an order by Vigo Superior Judge Christopher Newton summarily denying the petition.

The Indiana Supreme Court in 1995 affirmed Jerome Binkley’s conviction that came after two mistrials for the 1991 murder of Wayne Kemp in Terre Haute, even though the justices conceded no physical evidence connected Binkley to the crime. Binkley was sentenced to 60 years for murder enhanced by a 30-year term for being a habitual offender.

Binkley raised a claim of insufficient counsel in his PCR petition, arguing that his attorney failed to preserve objections to the testimony of witness Bill Loveland, and “that the knowing use of perjured testimony is fundamentally unfair.” A panel of the Court of Appeals ruled the PCR court erred when it summarily denied the petition in Jerome Binkley v. State of Indiana, 84A05-1208-PC-441.

“While our Supreme Court mentioned Loveland’s perjured testimony, it did not address the testimony in terms of whether the manner in which Binkley’s trial counsel sought to prevent or counteract the testimony amounted to ineffective assistance of counsel,” Judge Rudy Pyle III wrote for the panel. “In other words, whether the performance of Binkley’s trial counsel (1) fell below an objective standard of reasonableness; and (2) but for counsel’s errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.

“Ineffective assistance is a separate and distinct inquiry from whether there is sufficient evidence to support a conviction. This is partly why an ineffective assistance claim is available for post-conviction relief, even when the issue is available and not raised on direct appeal,” Pyle wrote.

“Because Binkley has pled sufficient facts to raise an issue of possible merit, we find that the trial court erred in summarily denying Binkley’s PCR petition. As a result, we remand for further proceedings on Binkley’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim and direct the post-conviction court to issue findings of fact and conclusions of law consistent with Post-Conviction Rule 1(6).”

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