Conley v. State

Decision Date13 July 1972
Docket NumberNo. 671S183,671S183
PartiesJerry CONLEY, Appellant, v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee.
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

Harriette Bailey Conn, Public Defender, David J. Colman, Deputy Public Defender, for appellant.

Theo. L. Sendak, Atty. Gen., Mark Peden, Deputy Atty. Gen., for appellee.

ARTERBURN, Chief Justice.

This case is before the court on Defendant-Appellant Jerry Conley's appeal from the denial of his petition under Rule P.C. 1 in which he requested that he be allowed to withdraw a previously entered plea of guilty to the offense of assault and battery with intent to kill. IC 1971, 35--13--2--1; Burns' Ind.Ann.Stat. § 10--401a (1971 Supp.).

It is appellant's contention that according to the official record, the trial judge failed to satisfy his duty by advising the defendant of his constitutional rights, the nature of the charge, and the consequences of the plea of guilty prior to its acceptance.

The record in this case reveals that on March 17, 1969, appellant appeared in the Circuit Court of Dubois County, where the Honorable Howard King, Judge, read the charging affidavits and the statutes allegedly violated. Judge King also advised the defendant of his right to counsel. Since it is material to our consideration of this case, these proceedings are set out below:

Judge King:

There are several affidavits here, I will read them to you and advise you what you are charged with. (here the Court reads the affidavit--carrying a pistol without a license.). The statute of this state for that offense is as follows: (here the Court reads the statute to the defendant).

This one charges you with resisting arrest; (here the Court reads the affidavit to the defendant). The statute of this state for that offense is as follows: (here the Court reads the statute).

'And this one--Assault & Battery with intent to commit a felony. (here the Court reads the affidavit to the defendant). The statute of this state for that offense is as follows: (here the court reads the statute to the deft (sic)).

The record shows that the affidavit reads as follows:

Comes now Larry L. Eck a competent and reputable person of said County, who, being duly sworn upon his oath says that on the 14th day of March, 1969, at Dubois County, State of Indiana, the said JERRY CONLEY did then and there unlawfully and feloniously attempt to commit a violent injury upon the person of this Affiant, he, the said JERRY CONLEY, then and there having the present ability to commit said injury by then and there unlawfully, feloniously, purposely and with pre-meditated malice, shooting at this Affiant with a certain 38 caliber pistol then and there loaded with gun powder and lead, which the said JERRY CONLEY then and there had and held in his hands with the intent then and there and thereby him, this Affiant, unlawfully, feloniously, purposely and with pre-meditated malice, to kill and murder, contrary to the form of the Statutes in such cases made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the State of Indiana.

Although the Judge referred to the charge as 'Assault & Battery with intent to commit a felony', which provides for a sentence of 1--10 years (IC 1971, 35--1--54--3, Burns' Ind.Ann.Stat. § 10--401 (1971 Supp.)), the record shows the actual charge was assault and battery with intent to kill which carries a penalty of 2--14 years. IC 1971, 35--13--2--1, Burns' Ind.Ann.Stat. § 10--401a (1971 Supp.). We find no error in the Judge's statement of the name of the charge since the charge itself, and the statute for 'that offense' was read verbatim to the defendant.

The Court thereafter continued:

By the Court: Now before you make any statement or enter any plea under our Constitution, the Constitution of this State and the United States, you have a right to consult with an attorney. Do you have an attorney?

A. No, sir.

Q. Have you consulted with an attorney?

A. No, sir.

Q. Do you have any money?

A. No, sir. * * *

On April 3, 1969, appellant appeared in the Circuit Court with his appointed attorney and entered pleas of 'Not Guilty' to the charges alleged in the affidavits and asked for a jury trial.

On May 5, 1969, defendant-appellant again appeared in Court with his attorney for the purpose of withdrawing his plea of not guilty to the charges alleged in the affidavit:

Mr. Howard Lytton, attorney for the defendant advised the Court that the defendant wished to change his plea of not guilty to a plea of guilty, to the charges alleged in the affidavit.

Judge King:

Mr. Conley, stand up. Do you wish to change your plea in this case?

Mr. Conley: Yes, I want to plead guilty at this time.

Judge Kind:

Do you fully understand the charges alleged in the affidavit?

Mr. Conley: Yes.

Judge King now reads to the defendant a portion of the affidavit including the following: (here the material part of the affidavit, supra, is set out in the record.)

Judge King:

Now what is your plea Mr. Conley to those charges as alleged in the affidavit?

Mr. Conley: Guilty.

Conley was sentenced to 'the Indiana State Prison for a period of not less than two (2) nor more than fourteen (14) years.' Conley contends the Court committed error by not inquiring into the voluntariness of his guilty plea. Although Conley was present at the Rule P.C. 1 hearing, he did not take the stand to offer testimony relating to the voluntariness of his plea or his understanding of its consequences. At that hearing the trial judge mentioned the possibility of securing testimony from the appellant's trial counsel on the subject of Conley's understanding of his situation when the guilty plea was entered. This offer was declined:

Judge King:

Would there be any difference in your argument if the attorney who represented him would testify in this cause?

Mr. Colman (for the Public Defender): Absolutely not your Honor. As I pointed out, the burden of inquiry falls upon the trial court itself. I'm sure there is substantial federal case law, although I do not have them at my finger tips, even if in fact the defendant had been advised by his attorney of all of his constitutional rights, the guilty plea hearing under federal law would be inadequate.

Appellant is in error in asserting that the burden rests with the trial court. Rule P.C. 1(5) states: 'The petitioner has the burden of establishing his grounds for relief by a preponderance of the evidence.' In determining the voluntariness of the plea, it is proper for the trial court to consider appellant's failure to avail himself of the attorney's testimony. In the setting of this case, we feel the following statement from Schmittler v. State (1950), 228 Ind. 450, 93 N.E.2d 184, is most appropriate.

It will be noted that appellant, upon whom rested the burden of proof, did not produce his attorney's affidavit or testimony. Here the appellant had it peculiarly within his power to produce this witness whose testimony could or would explain the entire transaction. The fact that the appellant did not produce . . . the testimony of this witness raises the presumption that this evidence or testimony if produced would have been unfavorable or prejudicial to him. From this failure the court may have drawn the inference that the attorney would not have corroborated the appellant. . . . 228 Ind. 467, 93 N.E.2d 191.

However, the record does contain an affidavit of petitioner's attorney at the time of his plea of guilty. This was filed in opposition to the motion to correct errors and was in the record prior to the hearing on that motion. It reads, in pertinent part, as follows:

. . . I advised Mr. Conley of his constitutional rights and also the penalties for each charge. On numerous occasions he was advised of his right of a trial by jury and also the penalty he could receive by entering a plea of guilty to the charge of assault with intent and through his own decision entered a plea of guilty to the charge.

We find that this affidavit was properly in the record and before the trial court for consideration under Rule P.C. 1(5).

Indiana case law has long recognized the importance of a full inquiry into the voluntariness of guilty pleas obtained from defendants who are without the services of counsel:

A court should accept pleas of guilty from defendants charged with serious crime who are unrepresented by counsel, when they are manifestly young and inexperienced, or obviously lacking in intelligence or knowledge of our spoken language, with caution, and only after reasonable inquiry into the facts to discover whether a plea of guilty is entered freely and understandingly. Dobosky v. State (1915), 183 Ind. 488, 491, 109 N.E. 742, 743.

Further, our trial judges have an affirmative duty to advise unrepresented defendants of their constitutional rights and the consequences of a decision to plead guilty. See Thacker v. State (1970), Ind., 262 N.E.2d 189; Gates v. State (1962), 243 Ind. 325, 183 N.E.2d 601; Dearing v. State (1951), 229 Ind. 131, 95 N.E.2d 832; Rhodes v. State (1927), 199 Ind. 183, 194, 156 N.E. 389; Bielich v. State (1920), 189 Ind. 127, 126 N.E. 220; Batchelor v. State (1920), 189 Ind. 69, 125 N.E. 773. If the trial judge fails to discharge this obligation, the defendant will be entitled to either withdraw his plea or present the issue of its voluntariness in a post conviction proceeding. Id.

In Campbell v. State (1951), 229 Ind. 198, 96 N.E.2d 876, this court stressed the need for the establishment of a record which would indicate that a defendant, before the court without an attorney, had been properly advised of his rights and the consequences of a decision to confess guilt:

One of the reasons for the adoption of Rule 1--11 (now Rule CR. 10) . . .by this court is to provide an unimpeachable record showing the extent of the inquiry into the facts, circumstances and conditions made by the trial court to ascertain at the time whether the offered plea of guilty is made freely and understandingly. Without such...

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