The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of a man’s petition for post-conviction relief, finding he failed to establish that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel with respect to either the manner in which voir dire was conducted or in the failure to object to the supplemental jury instruction defining “intentionally.”
Wayne Campbell appealed the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which challenged his convictions on two counts of attempted murder and one count of Class B felony burglary. The convictions stem from an altercation he got into with neighbors over use of an easement. He attacked Alva and Jean Kincaid, striking them with a shotgun and causing severe injuries.
In his petition, Campbell claimed his attorney was ineffective by engaging in improper voir dire during jury selection and by failing to object to a jury instruction regarding the definition of “intentionally” that was given during deliberations in response to a jury question requesting “the definition of intent.”
Campbell took issue with the hypothetical questions his trial counsel proposed to prospective jurors. His attorney explained that he was attempting to find jurors who would be receptive to a claim of self-defense. The Court of Appeals pointed out that the hypotheticals did not incorrectly suggest that Campbell was going to pursue a defense of abandonment, as he claimed, and instead explored the jurors’ understanding of the substantial step requirement for attempt crimes.
“We cannot say trial counsel performed below an objective standard of reasonableness in the manner in which he conducted voir dire. To hold otherwise would be tantamount to hyper-regulation and second-guessing of trial counsel’s strategy and tactics, a task we cannot and should not undertake,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote in Wayne Campbell v. State of Indiana, 13A05-1304-PC-201.
Campbell also argued that the trial court erred in giving the instruction to the jury when it asked for a definition of “intent” during its deliberations: “A person engages in conduct ‘intentionally’ if, when he engages in the conduct, it is his conscious objective to do so. If a person is charged with intentionally causing a result by his conduct, it must have been his conscious objective not only to engage in the conduct, but to cause the result.”
He believed the second statement shouldn’t have been given because it is a misstatement of the law. But the instruction is from the Indiana Pattern Jury Instructions. The appellate court noted that there is some tension as to whether this second sentence is a correct statement of the law that has yet to be resolved by the Indiana Supreme Court.
“Regarding reasonable performance, trial counsel indicated at the post-conviction hearing that he doubted any objection to the instruction would have been fruitful because it was a pattern instruction,” Barnes wrote.
Since there is no unequivocal legal basis upon which counsel should have objected, the appellate court declined to say Campbell’s attorney performed deficiently.