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Edmonson v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

November 9, 2017

Charles A. Edmonson, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

         Appeal from the Vigo Superior Court The Honorable Michael J. Lewis, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 84D06-1603-PC-1612

          APPELLANT PRO SE Charles A. Edmonson Greencastle, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Eric P. Babbs Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          May, Judge.

         [¶1] Charles A. Edmonson, pro se, appeals the post-conviction court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. He argues the post-conviction court erred in concluding his petition was barred by the doctrine of laches. We agree the court's finding of laches was clearly erroneous because the State did not demonstrate it was prejudiced. Nevertheless, we affirm the court's denial of Edmonson's petition because, as the post-conviction court also found, Indiana law did not require Edmonson be advised of all possible collateral consequences of his guilty plea for that plea to have been entered voluntarily.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] In August 1993, pursuant to a plea agreement, Edmonson pled guilty to Class B misdemeanor public intoxication[1] and Class B misdemeanor criminal mischief[2]("misdemeanor convictions"). The court accepted Edmonson's guilty plea and sentenced Edmonson to serve 180 days on each count, concurrently, in the Indiana Department of Correction. The court gave Edmonson credit for two days he had already served, suspended the sentence, and placed Edmonson on one year of probation.

         [¶3] While on probation, Edmonson committed murder. The trial court convicted him and sentenced him to sixty years in prison. See Edmonson v. State, 667 N.E.2d 181 (Ind. 1996) (affirming Edmonson's sentence), reh'g denied. In sentencing Edmonson, the trial court found as an aggravator "Edmonson's prior convictions for offenses related to alcohol." Id. at 182.

         [¶4] On March 8, 2016, while still serving his sentence for murder, Edmonson filed a petition for post-conviction relief from his misdemeanor convictions. In support of his petition, he claimed he was denied the right to competent counsel under Article 1, Section 13 of the Indiana Constitution and under the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution, and that his "uninformed, coerced, and involuntary" guilty plea violated the State and Federal Constitutions. (App. Vol. 2 at 8.) Specifically, Edmonson argued both his counsel and the trial court "failed to advise him of the future consequences" of his guilty plea-i.e., that his misdemeanor convictions "would be used as an aggravator in a future sentence." (Id.)

         [¶5] The post-conviction court held a hearing on Edmonson's petition on August 18, 2016. The State raised the affirmative defense of laches and argued Edmonson's petition also fails on the merits. The court summarily denied Edmonson's petition for post-conviction relief after announcing at the hearing both that the State had demonstrated Edmonson's petition was barred by the doctrine of laches and that Indiana law did not entitle Edmonson to an advisement of possible future collateral consequences of his guilty plea.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶6] "The petitioner in a post-conviction proceeding bears the burden of establishing grounds for relief by a preponderance of the evidence." Humphrey v. State, 73 N.E.3d 677, 681 (Ind. 2017). "When appealing the denial of post-conviction relief, the petitioner stands in the position of one appealing from a negative judgment." Id. To prevail on appeal from the denial of post-conviction relief, the petitioner must show the evidence leads "unerringly and unmistakably to a conclusion opposite that reached by the post-conviction court." Id. We do not defer to the post-conviction court's legal conclusions, but "a post-conviction court's findings and judgment will be reversed only upon a showing of clear error-that which leaves us with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made." Id. at 682.

         Laches

         [¶7] The equitable doctrine of laches "operates to bar consideration of the merits of a claim or right of one who has neglected for an unreasonable time, under circumstances permitting due diligence, to do what in law should have been done." Kirby v. State, 822 N.E.2d 1097, 1100 (Ind.Ct.App. 2005), trans. denied. The State is required to prove the defense of laches by a preponderance of the evidence. McCollum v. State, 671 N.E.2d 168, 170 (Ind.Ct.App. 1996), affirmed on reh'g, 676 N.E.2d 356 (Ind.Ct.App. 1997), trans. denied. To prove ...


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