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7th Circuit upholds foster father’s child molestation conviction

September 13, 2016

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a foster father’s conviction of molesting his former foster daughter after the foster father claimed that his counsel at trial was ineffective in a manner that was prejudicial.

William Hinesley III was convicted of molesting his 13-year-old former foster daughter, V.V., on Jan. 16, 2009. V.V. had been living with Hinesley, but was removed from his household and placed with his parents in the fall of 2008.

Despite her removal from the home, V.V. continued to visit Hinesley, and on the evening of Jan. 16, the Indiana Court of Appeals, in its affirmation of the conviction, wrote that Hinesley approached V.V., pulled down her pants and underwear and sexually assaulted her.

Hinesely then walked away and his son, Billy, entered the room, saw V.V. pulling her pants up, learned what had happened and contacted the police. Morgan County Sheriff’s Detective Dan Downing took statements from V.V. and Billy the following morning and Hinesely was eventually charged with three child molestation charges – two Class A felonies and a Class C felony. He denied the accusations against him.

There was no physical evidence of the incident, so the prosecutor’s case relied on V.V. and Billy’s testimony. But both V.V. and Billy were accused by Hinesely’s attorney of changing the stories of what occurred on the night of the incident and of lying in their testimonies and statements to police, including failing to admit the fact that they were engaged in a consensual sexual relationship.

The court eventually dismissed a deviate sexual conduct charge and touching or fondling charge against Hinesley, but convicted him of a Class A felony charge for molesting V.V.  and sentenced him to 30 years in prison with five served as probation. The judge said that although there were discrepancies in V.V. and Billy’s stories, she found V.V.’s testimony credible.

Hinesley filed for post-conviction relief, saying his counsel was ineffective because it did not object to out-of-court statements — including Downing’s description of Billy and V.V.’s statements the morning after the incident, a videotaped statement by Billy, and Billy’s testimony of what V.V. told him – that were improperly allowed into evidence. Additionally, Hinesley said that his counsel allowed Downing and Billy to vouch for V.V.’s credibility during trial without objection.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Hinesley’s conviction, and the Indiana Supreme Court denied his petition for transfer. The district court also denied his petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

Hinesley then appealed to the 7th Circuit Court, contending that because the out-of-court statements were allowed into evidence, and because Downing and Billy vouched for V.V. without objection, his attorney had denied him the right to the effective assistance of counsel.

But Hinesley’s attorney had testified that he intentionally did not object because he wanted to point out the inconsistencies in their stories. Although that strategy was unsuccessful, the 7th Circuit Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ decision that such a strategy was not prejudicial against Hinesley. Thus the 7th Circuit Court affirmed the decision to deny Hinesley’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

The case is William Hinesley, III v. Wendy Knight, superintendent, Correctional Industrial Facility, 15-2122.

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