Murderer deprived court record gets new shot at relief

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A man convicted of killing a female co-worker whose skeletal remains were found in a Johnson County marsh was denied an opportunity to use the court record to plead his counsel was ineffective as he sought post-conviction relief, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

Jason Dean Hubbell was convicted in November 1999 of the strangulation murder of Sharon Myers, with whom he had worked at an Arvin Industries plant in Columbus. Myers had disappeared on the morning of May 13, 1997; her remains weren’t discovered until nearly six months later.

Hubbell’s convictions for murder and criminal confinement and his 75-year sentence were affirmed by the Indiana Supreme Court in 2001, after which he began the first of a number of post-conviction relief petitions.

In this case, he argued ineffective assistance of counsel, but prosecutors objected to his questioning of a former defender by referring to court records that were not certified. The judge sustained those objections and denied Hubbell’s request for the court to obtain the certified record – something Hubbell could not do from the Department of Correction.

“Rather than obtaining the Record of Proceedings for Hubbell, the post-conviction court imposed on Hubbell ‘the affirmative duty to get the [R]ecord [of Proceedings] to the PCR Court,’” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the panel in Jason Dean Hubbell v. State of Indiana, 03A01-1511-PC-1927. “It is not apparent how Hubbell could have accomplished that task when he is not a licensed lawyer, he is proceeding pro se, and he is indigent.  Nor does there appear to be a published procedure that allows him to do so.”

“Under these facts, it is difficult to see what more could be expected of Hubbell as he was attempting to present his post-conviction arguments,” Brown wrote.  “Until such time as electronic transcripts and records make this issue moot for all petitioners, pro se petitioners need to know how they may ensure the Records of Proceedings from their direct appeals are available for a post-conviction hearing.  

“For the foregoing reasons, we reverse the post-conviction court’s denial of Hubbell’s petition for post-conviction relief, order the court to obtain the direct appeal Record, and permit Hubbell to question his witnesses and present his arguments with the benefit of a certified Record of Proceedings.”

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