Relief petition filed after 15 years too late, COA says

March 13, 2019

A man seeking relief from his convictions was rejected when the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of his petition, finding he was too late after delaying his filing 15 years.

In 2002, Michael Jent pleaded guilty to Class A misdemeanor invasion of privacy, Class A misdemeanor interfering with the reporting of a crime, Class B misdemeanor public intoxication and Class B misdemeanor disorderly conduct. He also waived his constitutional rights.

Fifteen years later, Jent filed a petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that he was still intoxicated at the time of his hearing and that his guilty plea was not knowingly made. He also alleged that there was an insufficient factual basis to support his guilty plea and that he was denied the assistance of guilty plea counsel.

When the Allen Superior Court denied his petition, it found no merit to Jent’s claims and found he unreasonably delayed in filing for relief. Additionally, Jent’s guilty plea hearing transcript was unavailable upon request, having been destroyed after meeting Indiana’s 10-year deadline for misdemeanor record filings.

The state contended that his allegations did not create a genuine issue of material fact because they did not allege specific facts that would suffice to establish any grounds for post-conviction relief. It also argued his claims were barred by laches and was unreasonably delayed in making his request.

Jent argued on appeal that the state failed to present evidence to support a laches defense, unreasonable delay and that the delay caused prejudice, but the Indiana Court of Appeals sided with the state in Michael R. Jent v. State of Indiana, 18A-PC-785.

The appellate panel first found that while a lapse of time did not necessarily constitute laches, Jent’s 15-year delay in filing for post-conviction relief was sufficient to infer that the delay was unreasonable. It similarly found that the destruction of documents can be prejudicial to the state and support an affirmative defense of laches.

“It should be noted that the State failed to present evidence to the postconviction court in its pleadings alleging the specific prejudice it suffered by Jent’s unreasonable delay,” Judge Rudolph Pyle. “Normally, this would require reversal of the post-conviction court’s order under summary disposition and a remand for further proceedings.

“However, this would be an unnecessary and unwarranted waste of judicial resources when the result will be the same — the case would be remanded, the post-conviction court would deny Jent’s PCR petition after finding the State prejudiced by the destruction of transcripts after Jent’s unreasonable delay, Jent would likely appeal, and we would affirm.”

The appellate court therefore affirmed the denial of Jent’s petition, concluding the unreasonable delay prejudiced the state and that Jent failed to show that the evidence as a whole led to an opposite conclusion than that reached by the post-conviction court.


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