JEFFERY L. FLEENOR, SR., Appellant-Defendant,
STATE OF INDIANA, Appellee-Plaintiff
These opinions are not precedents and cannot be cited or relied upon unless used when establishing res judicata or collateral estoppel or in actions between the same party. Indiana Rules of Appellate Procedure 65(D).
APPEAL FROM THE WASHINGTON CIRCUIT COURT. The Honorable Larry W. Medlock, Judge. Cause No. 88C01-1211-FB-844.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: DAVID A. SMITH, McIntyre & Smith, Bedford, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, Attorney General of Indiana, ELLEN H. MEILAENDER, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.
ROBB, Judge. BARNES, J., and BROWN, J., concur.
Jeffery Fleenor, Sr., pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, a Class B felony. The plea agreement called for the State to dismiss two additional charges and for Fleenor to be given an executed sentence of twenty years. Prior to sentencing, Fleenor filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The motion was denied, and the trial court entered judgment of conviction and sentenced Fleenor according to the terms of the plea agreement. Fleenor now appeals, raising one issue for our review: whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Concluding withdrawal of the guilty plea was not necessary to correct a manifest injustice because Fleenor has failed to show that his plea was not knowing or voluntary or that it was induced by ineffective assistance of counsel, we affirm the trial court's denial of his motion.
Facts and Procedural History
When police investigated a report from Fleenor's neighbors of shots fired from the direction of his home toward theirs, firearms were found in Fleenor's home. He had previously been convicted of battery with a deadly weapon, a Class C felony, and was therefore classified as a serious violent felon. See Ind. Code § 35-47-4-5(b)(4)(C). The State charged Fleenor with possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, a Class B felony; criminal recklessness, a Class D felony; and alleged that he was an habitual offender.
Public defender Alice Blevins was appointed to represent Fleenor. While he was awaiting trial, Fleenor was examined by medical professionals for various pre-existing concerns including heart disease and diabetes. The court spoke with the doctors and was assured that Fleenor was competent, mentally and physically, to stand trial. At a hearing four days before trial, the court informed Fleenor that if he felt unwell during trial, he should tell his counsel and the court would take a break until he felt better. While his case was pending, Fleenor indicated that he was unhappy with Blevins' representation of him and requested appointment of a different public defender. On the day Fleenor's trial was set to begin, public defender Robert Hamilton entered his appearance as co-counsel for Fleenor. A jury was chosen on the first day of trial. Before the trial resumed the following day with opening statements, Fleenor and his attorneys met with his witnesses and discovered they would not be testifying as Fleenor had anticipated. Fleenor therefore entered into plea negotiations with the State which resulted in an agreement that he would plead guilty to possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, the State would dismiss the criminal recklessness charge and habitual offender allegation, and Fleenor would be sentenced to twenty years. The court immediately held a change of plea hearing during which Fleenor advised the court that he understood the rights he was giving up by changing his plea, including his right to proceed with the jury trial, that he was offering the plea of his own free will, and that he was satisfied with the advice of counsel and the outcome. His attorneys each informed the court that Fleenor was "as lucid as [they had] ever seen him," transcript at 11, and that he had conferred with his family and they had expressed no concerns about his ability to understand the proceedings. After hearing a factual basis for the plea, the trial court accepted the plea agreement and set the matter for sentencing. The trial court dismissed the jury and signed an order releasing Fleenor's firearms out of evidence into the possession of Fleenor's aunt.
Prior to the sentencing hearing, Fleenor obtained private counsel who filed a verified motion to withdraw Fleenor's guilty plea, alleging Fleenor's plea was not knowing and voluntary because he was suffering from a "spell" during the change of plea hearing which left him "exhausted and confused, and not able to make a reasonable, informed decision." Appellant's Supplemental Appendix at 155. The motion also alleged Fleenor was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Following a hearing, the trial court denied the motion to withdraw guilty plea and proceeded to sentence Fleenor to twenty years as provided by the plea agreement. Fleenor now appeals.
Discussion and Decision
I. Standard of ...