Reversal: Inmate may appeal despite belated notice

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the denial of an inmate’s permission to file a belated notice of appeal when it found he was an eligible defendant under to Post-Conviction Rule 2.

In January 2016, Eran Haddock pleaded guilty in Huntington Superior Court to one count of Level 3 felony dealing in a narcotic drug and received an aggregate 14-year sentence. In exchange for Haddock’s guilty plea, the state agreed to dismiss his second count and informed him of his rights.

Later that year, Haddock filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief in which he alleged that he had not received effective assistance of trial counsel. Thereafter, on September 29, a deputy public defender filed an appearance on Haddock’s behalf. But, on the same day, that attorney filed a notice in which he indicated that, due to his caseload, he could not currently investigate Haddock’s claims. As a result, the court stayed the post-conviction proceedings.

In April 2018, Haddock, with counsel, filed a petition for permission to file a belated notice of appeal. In the petition, Haddock asserted that his sentence was illegal because the trial court had used an improper aggravator when it sentenced him. He argued the trial court’s finding of fact that Haddock had committed the offense while in the presence of a child was an improper aggravator because that was also an element of the offense to which he had pleaded guilty.

Haddock included as attachments to his petition his plea agreement and the transcripts from the guilty plea and sentencing hearings, including his affidavit, which stated he was previously informed of his rights. However, Haddock stated that his initial trial counsel did not advise him that the waiver of appellate rights did not apply if the judge failed to follow sentencing procedure and guidelines. Haddock was informed of that information two years later with his current counsel, but the trial court denied Haddock’s petition without a hearing.

The appellate court agreed in Eran D. Haddock v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-1362, finding his failure to timely file a notice of appeal was not due to any fault of his own and that he had been diligent in requesting permission to file the belated notice of appeal.

“Haddock is an ‘eligible defendant’ pursuant to Post-Conviction Rule 2 because he would have had the right to challenge his purportedly illegal sentence in a timely appeal notwithstanding the waiver provision of his plea agreement. Further, the undisputed facts show that Haddock’s failure to file a timely notice of appeal was not due to his own fault and that he was diligent in requesting permission to file a belated notice of appeal,” Judge Edward Najam wrote for the court.

“As such, the trial court erred when it denied his petition to file a belated notice of appeal. We reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand with instructions for the trial court to grant Haddock’s petition for permission to file a belated notice of appeal.”

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