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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today

In Benjamin Ritchie v. State of Indiana, a 26-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Rucker begins with this summary of the opinion:

Benjamin Ritchie was convicted of murder, possession of a handgun by a serious violent felon, auto theft, and resisting law enforcement in connection with the 2000 shooting death of Beech Grove police officer William Toney. The trial court accepted the jury’s recommendation for a sentence of death for the murder conviction and sentenced Ritchie to a total executed term of twenty years for the remaining convictions. On direct appeal, we affirmed Ritchie’s conviction and sentence of death. Thereafter Ritchie filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied after a hearing. He now appeals that denial raising several issues for our review, some of which are waived.[1] We address the remaining issues, which we rephrase as follows: (1) whether Ritchie was denied the effective assistance of trial counsel; (2) whether Ritchie was denied the effective assistance of appellate counsel; and (3) whether he received a fair post-conviction hearing. We affirm the post-conviction court.
[1] Ritchie complains the mandatory procedures for capital sentencing and independent appellate review were violated. Br. of Appellant at 88. Under these general headings he alleges: (1) the trial court improperly instructed the jury that he was eligible for a sentence ranging between forty-five and seventy-five years, but the actual range was forty-five to ninety-four years; (2) the trial court erroneously gave the jury a special verdict form on the weighing element; and (3) the trial court failed to issue a written sentencing order. Id. at 88-92. The purpose of a petition for post-conviction relief is to raise issues unknown or unavailable to a defendant at the time of the original trial or appeal. Reed v. State, 856 N.E.2d 1189, 1194 (Ind. 2006). These issues were known and available at the time of Ritchie’s direct appeal. An issue known but not raised on direct appeal is waived. Williams v. State, 808 N.E.2d 652, 659 (Ind. 2004).

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 8, 2007 12:48 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions