COA orders transfer of state habeas petition to Monroe County

The Henry Circuit Court must transfer a man’s petition for writ of state habeas corpus to Monroe County, where the man was convicted, after the Indiana Court of Appeals held Friday that Indiana Post-Conviction rules require the petition to be considered in the conviction court.

In James E. Manley v. Keith Butts, 33A05-1608-MI-1865, James Manley was convicted in Monroe County in 1997 of multiple counts of felony child molesting against his daughter. The Monroe Circuit Court sentenced Manley to an aggregate term of 55 years to be served in the Indiana Department of Correction.

After his convictions and sentence were affirmed in multiple appeals, Manley filed in 2004 and 2006 petitions seeking permission to file a successive post-conviction petition, which the Court of Appeals denied. Then in 2014, Manley appealed the Monroe Circuit Court’s denial of a motion for relief from judgment, which the appellate court dismissed.

In 2015, Manley again filed for permission to file a successive post-conviction petition, which was once again denied. Then Manley filed in April 2016 a pro se petition for writ of state habeas corpus in Henry Circuit Court because he is incarcerated in Henry County.

After forwarding Manley’s petition to the Indiana Attorney General’s office, the attorney general acknowledged that under Post-Conviction Rule 1(1)(c) the petition should be transferred to Monroe County and treated as a petition for post-conviction relief, yet argued that the Henry Circuit Court should dismiss the petition because it was an unauthorized successive petition for post-conviction relief.

“In other words, the Attorney General argued that the Henry Circuit Court should disregard Post-Conviction Rule 1(1)(c) because ‘transferring the case would merely waste resources,’” Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Rudolph Pyle wrote.  

After the Henry Circuit Court followed the advice from the attorney general’s office, Manley filed a motion to correct error, which was denied. After his appeal, Pyle and the appellate panel unanimously reversed the Henry Circuit Court’s decision and instructed the trial court to transfer the petition to Monroe County.

Post-Conviction Rule 1(1)(c) provides that “if a person applies for a writ of habeas corpus in the county where the person is incarcerated and challenges the validity of his conviction or sentence, that court shall transfer the cause to the court in which the conviction took place, and the latter court shall treat it as a petition for relief … .” Thus, under the language of that rule, the Henry Circuit Court was required to transfer Manley’s petition to the Monroe Circuit Court, Pyle wrote.

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