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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ind. Decsions - Supreme Court issues two today

In Shawn E. Norris v. State of Indiana, a 9-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Dickson writes:

Four years after his guilty plea, conviction, and sentence for child molesting, the defendant sought post-conviction relief on grounds of newly discovered evidence. The post-conviction court granted the State's motion for summary disposition, and the defendant appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for an evidentiary hearing before the post-conviction court. Norris v. State, 881 N.E.2d 691, 692 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008). We granted transfer and now hold that a guilty plea may not be challenged in post-conviction proceedings by a claim of newly discovered evidence regarding the events that constituted the crime. * * *

A defendant's plea of guilty is thus not merely a procedural event that forecloses the necessity of trial and triggers the imposition of sentence. It also, and more importantly, conclusively establishes the fact of guilt, a prerequisite in Indiana for the imposition of criminal punishment. The defendant here is seeking to undermine the sanctity of his own guilty plea by seeking to challenge facts that were presented to police and led to his arrest and the filing of criminal charges against him. He is not contesting any testimonial evidence at trial that resulted in a determination of guilt notwithstanding a not-guilty plea. * * *

Though this defendant now claims that new evidence would require that his conviction be vacated, we cannot harmonize this new position taken by the defendant with the fact that he originally admitted to committing the crime by his guilty plea. It is inconsistent to allow defendants who pleaded guilty to use post-conviction proceedings to later revisit the integrity of their plea in light of alleged new evidence seeking to show that they were in fact not guilty. Both his confession and his new claims cannot be true. A defendant knows at the time of his plea whether he is guilty or not to the charged crime. With a trial court's acceptance of a defendant's guilty plea, the defendant waives the right to present evidence regarding guilt or innocence. This constitutes a waiver under P-C R. 1(1)(8), set forth above. * * *

We affirm the trial court's granting of the State's motion for summary disposition and the resulting denial of the defendant's petition for post-conviction relief.

Shepard, C.J., and Sullivan, J., concur. Boehm, J., concurs in result with separate opinion
in which Rucker, J., concurs.

[Justice Boehm begins] I agree with the majority that Norris has not shown that the post-conviction court erred in dismissing his petition. I do not agree with the majority that a guilty plea precludes a court from granting post-conviction relief on a claim of actual innocence. Any system of justice must allow for correction of injustice based on clear and convincing evidence of innocence, even if the defendant can be said to have contributed to his own plight by pleading guilty. See Sanchez v. State, 749 N.E.2d 509, 515 (Ind. 2001) (affirming earlier decisions holding or assuming that “fundamental fairness in judicial proceedings is assumed and required by our state constitution”).

In Rudy Wayne Cardwell v. State of Indiana, a 14-page, 4-1 opinion, Justice Boehm writes:
Rudy Wayne Cardwell challenges the appropriateness of his sentence under Indiana Rule of Appellate Procedure 7(B). Concluding that Cardwell’s aggregate sentence of thirty-four years is inappropriate in light of the nature of his offense and his character, we revise his sentence to consecutive terms of nine and eight years for an aggregate sentence of seventeen years. * * *

Shepard, C.J., and Sullivan and Rucker, JJ., concur.
Dickson, J., concurs and dissents with separate opinion. [which begins] Although I concur with Part I, discussing the challenges posed by appellate review and revision of criminal sentences, and Part II, finding no abuse of discretion in the trial court's sentencing determination, I decline to join Part III, revising the sentence chosen by the trial court in this case. The Court finds that Cardwell's thirty-four years is excessive for two class B felony convictions for burning his girlfriend’s three-year-old daughter with hot water and then failing to seek prompt medical treatment, as compared to the girl's mother's one and one-half year sentence for a single class D felony conviction for failing to seek prompt medical treatment for her daughter. I disagree with the grant of appellate sentence revision in this case.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 12, 2008 10:50 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions