The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld a post-conviction court’s determination that a man convicted of kicking another man to death cannot appeal his conviction.
In Matthew Conder v. State of Indiana, No.49A02-1012-PC-1404, Matthew Conder claimed that his conviction of Class A felony voluntary manslaughter should be reversed because his counsel was ineffective. But the Court of Appeals held that Conder’s attorney, Arnold Baratz, acted in accordance with Conder’s wishes by appealing Conder’s initial murder conviction, which resulted in Conder being charged with the lesser offense of Class A felony voluntary manslaughter.
In 2003, Conder kicked another man to death in a bar parking lot. He then took the victim’s wallet and attempted to conceal his guilt by bleaching his shoes. A bench trial in 2004 found Conder guilty of murder, robbery, and theft. Conder filed a motion requesting that the trial court enter a finding of guilty to voluntary manslaughter, rather than murder, arguing that his shoe constituted a “deadly weapon” for the purposes of the voluntary manslaughter statute.
The trial court conducted a hearing on the motion, ultimately entering the voluntary manslaughter conviction instead of murder and sentenced Conder to 40 years for that charge and three years for theft, with the sentences to be served consecutively. Conder then appealed the court’s decision.
In Conder v. State, No. 49A02-0412-CR-1070, slip op. at 2-4 (Ind. Ct. App. Aug. 17, 2005), the appeals court found that because Conder asked the court to find him guilty of manslaughter, he waived any possible objection to that conviction. However, the COA did find the sentence to be inappropriate and reduced it to an aggregate 33 years.
In his most recent appeal, Conder contended that his attorney performed deficiently because he should not have argued that a shoe is a deadly weapon. Conder claimed that if Baratz had not admitted to the shoe’s role as a deadly weapon, Conder could have been convicted of Class B felony manslaughter, rather than a Class A felony.
The appeals court wrote that Baratz had, in fact, argued for the B felony. At trial, when pressed to respond about whether a shoe constituted a deadly weapon, Baratz did not actually concede to that fact, but merely stated that “the Court could very well find that it fits that definition.” Had the trial court determined the shoe wasn’t a deadly weapon, then Conder’s murder conviction would’ve stood. Baratz’s effective representation of his client is what resulted in the lesser charge of manslaughter, the appeals court held.
The COA affirmed the post-conviction court’s decision denying Conder’s petition, stating that he failed to prove his counsel had acted deficiently.