A Ripley County man convicted of conspiring to commit burglary is entitled to a new trial due to ineffective assistance of his trial counsel and prosecutorial misconduct, the Indiana Supreme Court held.
Steven Ray Hollin filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which was granted by Ripley Circuit Judge Carl H. Taul. The Court of Appeals reversed, but the justices agreed with the post-conviction court’s ruling.
Hollin and Nathan Vogel in 2005 allegedly planned to burglarize homes in Ripley County by knocking on doors to see if anyone was home. They entered an unlocked house and Vogel stole a camera bag containing money. A woman called police because she was suspicious of the two men walking along the side of the road. Police found the bag and money on Vogel.
Originally, Vogel didn’t implicate Hollin in the plan to burglarize the home, and Hollin denied any knowledge of the burglary. He believed Vogel knew the homeowners and they went in the house to use the phone. Vogel pleaded guilty to theft as a Class D felony, which could later be reduced to a misdemeanor. Vogel had other cases pending at the time in Decatur County and pleaded guilty to those charges, but petitions to revoke his suspended sentences were later filed. That’s when Vogel changed his story and said Hollin knew of the burglary plot.
Hollin was charged with and convicted of conspiracy to commit burglary as a Class B felony and being a habitual offender. His original 40-year sentence previously was reduced by the justices to 20 years.
In State of Indiana v. Steven Ray Hollin, 69S05-1201-PC-6, the justices found Hollin’s argument that his counsel was ineffective for failing to present evidence that would have impeached Vogel’s credibility to be compelling. The details of Vogel’s plea agreements should have come out at trial – the jury only knew that Vogel had pleaded guilty and was in jail. The jury could have assumed he pleaded guilty to the same charge Hollin faced and was serving a lengthy sentence.
There was also prosecutorial misconduct because the jury didn’t know that there was a petition to revoke Vogel’s probations, that there were pending charges against him, or that he didn’t implicate Hollin until after he was charged with battery with a deadly weapon and his probations may have been revoked. This violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), the post-conviction court found, and the justices agreed.
They remanded his case for a new trial.