Biased juror’s seating reverses post-conviction ruling on rehearing

An Indiana Court of Appeals panel admitted it erred in a prior post-conviction ruling, finding after rehearing that a man was entitled to a new trial because a clearly biased juror was seated in his child molesting trial.

Jeffrey Archer lost his first post-conviction appeal in July, when the COA in a memorandum decision held that Archer did not receive ineffective assistance of appellate counsel in his child molesting trial, in which he was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2012. His conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal. 

But in ruling on rehearing of his post-conviction appeal Thursday, the panel reversed itself in Jeffrey Archer v. State of Indiana, 18A-PC-2681, finding Archer’s appellate counsel failed to obtain voir dire transcripts that would have shown a juror was seated despite admitting she might not be able to be fair and apply the law as instructed by the trial court judge.

“Archer correctly points out in his petition for rehearing that, despite a seeming assumption from both attorneys and the trial court that dismissal would occur, the juror was not, in fact, dismissed. And in this case, that is highly problematic,” Judge John Baker wrote for the panel.

“… Appellate counsel decided to raise the issue of ineffective assistance of trial counsel in Archer’s direct appeal. That decision had two consequences. First, it means that we cannot consider that issue here. Second, it means that appellate counsel had an obligation to review the entire record of the trial proceedings, including the voir dire transcript” in accordance with Wilson v. State, 94 N.E.3d 312, 321 (Ind. Ct. App. 2018).

Had appellate counsel done so, counsel would have seen this significant, obvious, and strong issue to be raised on appeal. And we believe that had appellate counsel raised the issue, we would have ruled in Archer’s favor, reversing and remanding for a new trial,” Baker wrote.

“Archer has established both that appellate counsel was ineffective and that he was prejudiced as a result. Under these circumstances, we find that the post-conviction court erred by denying Archer’s petition for post-conviction relief,” the panel concluded, remanding for a new trial in Marion Superior Court.

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