Appellate panel affirms denial of PCR in meth manufacturing case

A man whose meth manufacturing case has twice been through the appellate process has lost in a third appeal, this time challenging the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.

When Thomas Hale was convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine within

1,000 feet of a youth program center, he successfully appealed but was later convicted after a second jury trial on remand.

In his second appeal, Hale argued his 40-year aggregate sentence was inappropriate in light of the nature of his offense and his character. But the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed and Indiana Supreme Court justices denied transfer, prompting Hale to file a petition for post-conviction relief.

There, Hale argued that he received ineffective assistance from both his trial and appellate counsel when neither of them raised a constitutional challenge regarding his sentencing enhancement. But Hale’s PCR petition was denied, leading him to a third appeal in Thomas L. Hale v. State of Indiana, 20A-PC-1887.

Finding that the post-conviction court’s conclusion was not in error and that Hale suffered no prejudice, the Indiana Court of Appeals once again affirmed in a Wednesday opinion.

The appellate court first addressed Hale’s ineffective trial counsel claims, noting Hale’s case “presents difficult and still-undecided questions.” It concluded that it was not clear error to determine Hale failed to meet Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984)’s prejudice prong. As such, it found no need to address whether Hale’s attorney’s performance fell short of the objective standards of reasonableness.

Moving to the appellate counsel argument, the COA likewise found that Hale was not prejudiced by his attorney’s decision to forgo a facial challenge to the sentencing enhancement provision. It thus concluded that the post-conviction court did not clearly err in denying Hale’s petition for post-conviction relief.

Judge Edward Najam concurred with the majority in a separate opinion, writing alone to emphasize that Hale’s reliance on Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S. 591 (2015), was “misplaced.”

“… [I]n addition to the majority’s analysis, I conclude that Hale’s argument that Johnson gave him standing to raise a facial challenge is not plausible. Thus, I concur with the majority opinion to vote to affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment,” Najam wrote.

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