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State v. Collier

Supreme Court of Indiana

October 25, 2016

State of Indiana, Appellant (Respondent below),
v.
Robert Collier, Appellee (Petitioner below).

         Appeal from the Marion Superior Court, No. 49F15-9608-PC-124576 The Honorable Helen W. Marchal, Judge The Honorable Stanley Kroh, Magistrate

         On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 49A04-1508-PC-1036

          Attorney for Appellant Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General Henry A. Flores, Jr. Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorney for Appellee Steven T. Owens Public Defender of Indiana Vickie Yaser Deputy Public Defender Indianapolis, Indiana

          David, Justice

         At issue in this case is whether the post-conviction court erred in granting Collier's motion for relief from judgment pursuant to Trial Rule 60(B)(8). In light of the facts and circumstances of this case and given the deferential standard of review, we affirm finding that: 1) Collier filed his motion within a reasonable time given his incarceration, lack of education, limited resources and potential cognitive and/or mental deficiencies; 2) there were extraordinary circumstances due to the post-conviction court's failure to refer Collier's petition to the State Public Defender in accordance with the Post-Conviction Rules; and 3) Collier has alleged a meritorious claim.

         Facts and Procedural History

         In 1997, Robert Collier pled guilty to possession of cocaine as a class D felony. He was sentenced to 545 days in the Department of Correction with 521 days suspended and 90 days of probation.

         In 2001, Collier filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief wherein he alleged that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel, was misled by his attorney and the trial court and his guilty plea was not knowing, intelligent and voluntary. Collier indicated he wished to have a public defender appointed to represent him and submitted an affidavit of indigence. The post-conviction court appointed a public defender for Collier, but his petition for post-conviction relief was ultimately withdrawn without prejudice in 2005 after Collier's motion to file a belated appeal was denied and his public defender withdrew as counsel.

         In 2007, Collier filed a new pro se petition for post-conviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, claiming he did not make an intelligent and voluntary plea and requesting his plea agreement be vacated. Collier again indicated that he wished to have a public defender appointed and completed an affidavit of indigence. However, the court did not refer the petition to the State Public Defender and the court summarily denied Collier's petition.

         In December 2008, Collier wrote to the court asking about the status of his petition and request for representation. According to an entry in the court's chronological case summary (CCS), Collier was sent a copy of the order denying his 2007 petition in December 2008. Between May 2009 and September 2012, Collier submitted multiple requests or motions seeking documents related to his conviction and the order denying his 2007 petition. In August 2009, the court sent him a copy of the CCS. In September 2012, the court again sent him a copy of the order denying his 2007 petition.

          In September 2014, Collier filed another pro se petition for post-conviction relief. He again requested representation and submitted an affidavit of indigence. Thereafter, in April 2015, Collier, by counsel, filed both a verified motion for leave to amend his petition for post-conviction relief and a verified motion for relief from the September 2007 order (that summarily denied his 2007 petition for post-conviction relief) pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 60(B)(8) and Indiana Post-Conviction Rule 1 Section 2[1].

         In his motion for relief from judgment, Collier argued that in his 2007 petition, he requested representation and included an affidavit of indigence. As such, Post-Conviction Rule 1(2) imposed a duty upon the post-conviction court to order a copy of the petition to be sent to the State Public Defender. He further argued that he was not timely notified of the court's summary denial of his petition and so he could not perfect a timely appeal. Finally, his counsel argued that it was her belief that Collier suffered from cognitive and/or mental deficiencies that impacted Collier's ability to represent himself[2], Collier has limited education and that review of the record reveals that there are issues that have merit.

         The post-conviction court granted Collier's motion for relief from judgment before receiving a response from the State. The State then filed an objection and a motion to reconsider the order granting Collier's motion for relief from judgment. The State argued that Collier's motion for relief was not timely filed and was not supported by extraordinary circumstances. It ...


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