COA declines to extend civil ruling to PCR case

January 29, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected an inmate’s request that In re Adoption of O.R. provides him an option for filing a belated notice of appeal.

Ronald Sanford Jr. was 13-years-old when he stabbed to death two elderly women during a home invasion in 1987. He was waived into adult court and pleaded guilty at age 15 to two counts of murder, one count of Class A felony robbery and one count of Class B felony burglary. His plea agreement left sentencing open and he was sentenced to a total of 170 years. The trial court never advised him that he had a right to appeal his sentence.

Between February 1991 and November 1995, he sought transcripts so he could prepare a post-conviction review petition, but his requests were denied. In February 2004, he wrote to the state public defender’s office, which advised him that he must file the PCR petition in order to receive his transcripts. He did not file his PCR petition pro se until July 2006.

Continuances and delays in receiving a transcript of the guilty plea hearing led up to February 2015, when Sanford, by counsel, filed a petition for permission to file a belated appeal of his sentence pursuant to Post-Conviction Rule 2. The trial court denied his petition, finding he had not been diligent in seeking an appeal.

The COA affirmed in Ronald L. Sanford, Jr. v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1506-PC-485.

“Although we understand Sanford’s frustration with the repeated denials of his requests for transcripts between February 1991 and November 1995, the lack of progress during that time does not explain the following nine years of inaction that passed before he contacted the public defender for advice in 2004,” Judge Terry Crone wrote.

The judges also disagreed with Sanford that In re Adoption of O.R., 16 N.E.3d 965 (Ind. 2014), should grant him the right to appeal due to extraordinarily compelling reasons.

“Appellate Rule 9 provides that the right to appeal shall be forfeited except as provided by Post-Conviction Rule 2. Thus, criminal defendants already have a means whereby an untimely appeal may be restored and that is by filing a petition for permission to file a belated notice of appeal pursuant to Post-Conviction Rule 2. Parties in a civil action do not have such a built-in safety valve,” Crone wrote. “O.R. provides civil litigants a means by which the right to appeal may be restored that is otherwise unavailable in the Indiana Rules of Court. In fact, the showing required for criminal defendants under Post-Conviction Rule 2 – lack of fault and diligence – is easier to satisfy than that required for civil litigants under O.R. Accordingly, we decline to extend O.R.to criminal defendants who are eligible to avail themselves of Post-Conviction Rule 2.”


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