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James v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 8, 2019

Alandus James, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

          Appeal from the Elkhart Superior Court The Honorable Teresa L. Cataldo, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 20D03-1704-PC-22

          Attorneys for Appellant Stephen T. Owens Public Defender of Indiana Jonathan O. Chenoweth Deputy Public Defender Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Monika P. Talbot Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          May, Judge.

         [¶1] Alandus James appeals the denial of his amended petition for post-conviction relief. James raises two issues on appeal: whether the trial court adequately advised him of the rights he was waiving by pleading guilty to a habitual criminal offender ("HCO") allegation; and whether the State met its burden of showing James was nonetheless aware of the rights being waived. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On June 27, 2012, the State charged James with Class D felony battery on a child, [1] Class D felony strangulation, [2] and Class D felony residential entry.[3] On March 4, 2014, the State amended the charging information to add an HCO sentencing enhancement because on two prior occasions James had been convicted of sexual misconduct with a minor. On March 26, 2014, after being convicted by a jury on the felony charges, James pleaded guilty to the HCO enhancement without a plea agreement.

         [¶3] James appealed, challenging the court's order that he serve a thirty-month sentence for Class D felony residential entry consecutive to two concurrent eighteen-month sentences for Class D felony battery on a child and Class D felony strangulation, and we affirmed the trial court in an unpublished decision. See James v. State, No. 20A03-1405-CR-173 (Ind.Ct.App. Feb. 19, 2015). On April 24, 2017, James filed his pro se petition for post-conviction relief. The trial court appointed the Indiana State Public Defender to represent James, and on June 21, 2018, James filed an amended petition for post-conviction relief arguing that "his guilty plea was involuntary because the trial court had failed to advise him that he was waiving his right to confront and cross-examine witnesses and his right against self-incrimination." (Br. of Appellant at 5.)

         [¶4] On July 20, 2018, the court held an evidentiary hearing. On November 30, 2018, the court issued an order denying James' amended petition for post-conviction relief. The court concluded:

12. The Record herein shows that certain explicitly stated rights were not articulated by the trial court judge at the specific time of the guilty plea; however, they were expressed earlier in the trial proceedings. Also, there was no evidence presented at the post[-]conviction hearing from the Petitioner that he was inadequately informed or unaware that he was waiving the three rights stated in [Boykin[4]. Moreover, at the time of his guilty plea, the trial court noted on the record that the stage of the proceedings was just after the jury had returned the guilty verdict on the three D felony counts, and explained the Habitual Offender admission would apply to and enhance the sentence. The judge asked the Petitioner if he understood the penalties associated with the Habitual Offender Enhancement, and Petitioner responded, "yes, your Honor." The trial court judge also said, "now you have all the rights to have an attorney, which you have." Petitioner was also told that he had the right to a jury trial and that the jury was "ready to roll," and it appeared to the court that the Petitioner was familiar with how the jury process worked, trial having just ended. The court then asked the Petitioner if he had any questions at all about his rights. The Petitioner asked the judge if he was referring to a jury trial on the Habitual, and the court said, "yes, right." Then the Petitioner asked the Court if all the [S]tate had to prove was that he had two prior felonies, and the Court replied, that was what it boiled down to. But, the trial court judge then proceeded to explain to the Petitioner that he had the right to "sit back and go through it, see how it comes out", but that his attorney had suggested that he may want to admit, to which the Petitioner responded, "Yeah."
13. The guilty plea colloquy proceeded with the judge asking the Petitioner if he had any further questions and he responded, "no." Thereafter, the judge told the Petitioner that the court had to be satisfied that the Petitioner understood the proceedings and had the mental clarity of mind to decide to plead guilty. The trial court judge indicated that he had observed the Petitioner, heard his testimony and that he was satisfied; however, the judge again asked the Petitioner if that was a correct statement, and Petitioner said "yes." The Court asked Petitioner if it should go ahead with the guilty plea on the Habitual enhancement, and the Petitioner said "yes." (Trial Transcript, pp. 504-507).
14. It is evident to the Court from the guilty plea colloquy that Petitioner was specifically advised that he had the right to an attorney. Also, the Court noted that based on the Petitioner's testimony earlier in the day and during the trial process, he was acutely familiar with the rights against self[-]incrimination. Further, he had employed his right to confront and cross-examine witnesses during the immediately preceding two[-]day trial. Additionally, the court had told Petitioner that even though he was correct that the [S]tate had to prove two prior felonies, the Petitioner had the right to require the State to put on witnesses and evidence to prove the Habitual Offender Enhancement. Therefore, based on the record and evidence, it cannot be said that Petitioner was unaware that he was waiving his [Boykin] rights." [See, e.g. Winkleman], 22 N.E.3d at 852 (defendant voluntary [sic] pled guilty to an enhancement in the midst of a jury trial where [Boykin] rights were clearly on display; therefore, defendant did not establish that he was unaware that he was waiving those rights). To the contrary, the record and evidence establish[] that the Petitioner understood that by admitting the Habitual Offender Enhancement he was waiving his right to an attorney, right to a jury trial, right against self[-]incrimination and right to confront and cross-examine witnesses.
Accordingly, his plea of guilty was voluntary. The Petitioner has not met his burden of demonstrating that he was inadequately advised of his rights at the Habitual Offender ...

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