COA affirms denial of PCR petition in meth manufacturing case

The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed the denial of a man’s petition for post-conviction relief, finding he waived his ineffective-assistance-of-counsel argument.

In the case of Jerry Jones v. State of Indiana, 19A-PC-3051, Jerry Jones was arrested and admitted to manufacturing methamphetamine with his wife, Chauntel, and another woman, Anita Smith.

Prior to his arrest, Jones and the two women had agreed to manufacture meth between July and August 2014. Smith provided Jones with the materials needed to make the drugs, which were all uncovered during a search of both Smith and Jones’ homes by law enforcement.

All three individuals were charged, and attorney Kevin Moser was retained by family members to represent Jones and Chauntel. The couple both consented to Moser’s joint representation and signed a written waiver of any conflict of interest.

Jones ultimately pleaded guilty to Level 2 felony conspiracy to dealing in (manufacturing) methamphetamine in exchange for the state dismissing the remaining counts. Also under the plea agreement, the state recommend a 30-year sentence with 10 years suspended.

Although Jones testified that he was satisfied with Moser’s representation and that he had waived any potential conflict of interest in the case, he later filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging his counsel provided ineffective assistance by representing both him and his wife, among other things.

The Dearborn Circuit Court denied that petition, and the appellate panel affirmed in a Friday decision. The COA concluded Jones failed to carry his burden to show that Moser’s joint representation was burdened by an actual conflict of interest that adversely affected his performance.

The appellate court further noted that although Jones contended that Moser’s loyalty to Chauntel prevented Moser from arguing to the prosecutor that Jones did not have more culpability than his wife, that would have been contrary to Jones’ express wishes to protect Chauntel.

“Jones also contends that Moser’s loyalty to Chauntel kept him from challenging the validity of the search warrant. Given that Jones and Chauntel were married and lived together in the house targeted by the warrant, we fail to see how any challenge to the search warrant would have impacted their interests differently,” Judge Terry Crone wrote for the unanimous panel. “Thus, any decision not to challenge the search warrant does not appear related to a conflict of interest.”

 The appellate court further concluded that Jones failed to carry his burden to show or waived his claims that his attorney provided ineffective assistance by advising him to plead guilty.

Crone wrote that Jones was not entitled to be charged and sentenced under the prior version of Indiana Code § 35-48-4-1.1 that was in effect until June 30, 2014, for criminal conduct that he engaged in after July 1, 2014. Additionally, he said Jones had waived assertion that there was insufficient evidence of the weight of the methamphetamine.

On its final point, the appellate court concluded Jones waived his argument that his counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to file a motion to suppress the search warrant.

“The post-conviction court found that Jones did not allege a claim of ineffective assistance for failing to file a motion to suppress in his PCR petition and that he never amended his petition. … Jones does not challenge these findings or even acknowledge that he did not raise this allegation in his PCR petition. We conclude that the issue is waived,” the panel concluded.

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