IN justices grant transfer to 1 case, split on 3 others

The Indiana Supreme Court has turned down a request by an Allen County man to determine whether he actually waived his right to appeal when he entered into a plea agreement, but two members of the court voted to hear the case.

Of the 15 petitions to transfer, the Supreme Court granted only one during the week ending Feb. 18. However, Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justice Steven David voted to grant transfer to three other cases including Jeremiah G. Stevenson v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-1006.

All the justices agreed to grant transfer to Terrance Trabain Miller v. State of Indiana, 22S-CR-59. In that case, the Court of Appeals of Indiana reversed the drug conviction of Terrance Miller, finding the jury instructions were prejudicial because they included evidence of prior crimes.

In Stevenson, the appellant was charged with murder and a firearm enhancement following the shooting death of his neighbor. After the jury had been seated, he entered into a plea agreement in which he would plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for the dismissal of the murder charge.

The Allen Superior Court subsequently sentenced Jeremiah Stevenson to an aggravated sentence of 20 years on the voluntary manslaughter charge and the maximum sentence of 20 years on the firearm enhancement for a total of 40 years in prison.

Stevenson appealed his sentence to the Court of Appeals, arguing he did not “knowingly and voluntarily” waive his right to appeal when he entered into his plea agreement for a lesser charge.  In his brief, he asserted the trial court’s advisements to him were inconsistent and the waiver within the plea agreement was unclear.

The state filed a motion to dismiss, countering that the Court of Appeals had found similar sentencing waiver language in a plea agreement to be clear and enforceable. Also, the written plea agreement and oral advisement were consistent and unambiguous, the state argued.

In a one-page order issued Oct. 28, 2021, the Court of Appeals granted the state’s motion to dismiss. However, the decision was not unanimous, as Senior Judge John Sharpnack dissented. He did not write separately explaining his position.

The Supreme Court split on Stevenson’s petition to transfer. Neither Rush nor David explained their votes.

Also, Rush and David formed the minority voting to grant transfer to Tracey Wheeler v. Branchville Correctional Facility Office, et al., 20A-MI-2425, and to the memorandum decision of Daniel Klausner, et al. v. Brent Benge, et al., 20A-PL-1862.

The full list of transfer actions can be found online.

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