Mansfield v. State

Decision Date14 July 2006
Docket NumberNo. 49A02-0412-PC-1028.,49A02-0412-PC-1028.
Citation850 N.E.2d 921
PartiesHarold MANSFIELD, Appellant-Defendant, v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

Susan K. Carpenter, Public Defender of Indiana. C. Brent Martin, Deputy Public Defender, Attorneys for Appellant.

Steve Carter, Attorney General of Indiana, Ellen H. Meilaender, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Appellee.

OPINION

SULLIVAN, Judge.

Appellant, Harold Mansfield, challenges the post-conviction court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Upon appeal, Mansfield argues that the post-conviction court erred in denying his petition.

We affirm.

On August 4, 1981, Mansfield pleaded guilty to D felony possession of over thirty grams of marijuana, a violation of the Indiana Uniform Controlled Substances Act. On September 22, 1981, the trial court accepted Mansfield's plea and sentenced him in accordance with the plea agreement to two years, with eighteen months suspended. The written plea agreement advised Mansfield of his right to a public trial by jury and his right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, but it did not advise Mansfield of his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.

Over two decades later, on November 3, 2003, Mansfield filed his pro se petition for post-conviction relief.1 On August 13, 2004, Mansfield, represented by counsel, filed an amended petition for post-conviction relief, alleging for the first time that his guilty plea was not knowing, intelligent, and voluntary because he was not advised of his Boykin rights.2 Mansfield further asserted that the record was missing and could not be reconstructed and thus, the record was silent as to him receiving the necessary advisement of his Boykin rights. The State failed to file a response to either petition.

The post-conviction court held an evidentiary hearing on the amended petition on October 14, 2004. At that hearing, Mansfield entered into evidence the death certificates of his defense attorney, Peter Pappas, and two trial court bailiffs who served in 1981. He also submitted affidavits of Judge Richard Sallee, who presided over his guilty plea hearing and accepted the plea agreement, former Prosecutor Frank Pope, the current court reporter for the trial court Suzanna Cable, the former court reporter Donna Sheeks, and probation supervisor Susan Rees, wherein each individual indicated that they had no records or independent recollection of the case.3 The State presented no evidence. On November 3, 2004, the post-conviction court entered its findings of fact and conclusions denying Mansfield relief. Specifically, the court made the following conclusions:

"1. The defendant testified that he did not remember being advised of his Boykin ... rights at the time of sentencing." The pre-printed plea agreement which he signed contains two of the three necessary rights advisement, i.e. the right to a jury and the right to confront his accuser. It is deficient in advising about the right against self-incrimination. There was no evidence that even if he had been advised of that right, he would have changed his plea to not guilty.

2. The Court is aware that the prosecutor neither carried its burden of pleading or proving [laches] nor offered evidence that the State would be prejudiced by the defendant's delay in filing. The prosecutor did not suggest that evidence had been disposed of or that its witnesses were unavailable. The prosecutor did state that it would be impossible to retry every case more than ten years old.

3. The defendant acknowledged that the purpose of his PCR was to avoid a sentence as a habitual criminal, implying that the defendant was satisfied with the 1981 guilty plea until it became the basis for the habitual designation.

4. In the absence of a transcript or reconstruction of the hearing, it is difficult if not impossible for the defendant to prove his claim that he was not advised of his rights. Since the record is silent as to his rights, the Court presumes he was not afforded his Constitutional protections.

5. Having noted the above, the easy answer would be to vacate the guilty plea and order a new trial. But the Court believes that the defendant has sat on his rights too long. Such a delay has waived his rights, even though the prosecutor did not plead or prove [laches]. The defendant's lack of diligence would make the State's burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt more than difficult. To retry the defendant would be inconsistent with judicial economy.

6. Length of time alone is not sufficient to overturn the guilty plea. For each year of delay on the part of the defendant, there is an equal increase in the prosecutor's burden to retry the defendant. When the defendant has been diligent in his pursuit of righting a wrong, the courts have not attributed the delay to the defendant. In this case, however, there is no evidence that the defendant has been diligent or that this pursuit to overturn the conviction had been impeded. He should be held responsible for the delay.

7. There was evidence that at the time of the plea the defendant was greatly undereducated. He has been in prison currently for approximately eight years. He was in contact with counsel before he was found to be a Habitual Offender. The Court [imputes] knowledge to the defendant about his PCR rights many years before he filed.

8. The defendant's lack of diligence, coupled with the longest period of delay the Court could find for any Indiana case, is enough for the Court sua sponte to find the defendant culpable of [laches].

9. One of the purposes of finalizing cases is to enable the parties and witnesses to move forward with their lives. This Court finds as a matter of law that even though the prosecutor did not carry its affirmative duty, the defendant also failed in his duty. The defendant's failure to attempt to right the wrong for 22 years is a violation of the State's right to retry the defendant." Appendix at 45-47.

Upon appeal, Mansfield argues that the post-conviction court erred in denying his petition for post-conviction relief based upon the doctrine of laches. Specifically, Mansfield argues that the State waived the affirmative defense by failing to plead it and present evidence.

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. Armstrong v. State, 747 N.E.2d 1119, 1120 (Ind.2001). Laches is an affirmative defense which the State must affirmatively plead in its responsive pleading. Twyman v. State, 459 N.E.2d 705, 711 (Ind.1984); Ind. Trial Rule 8(c). To prevail on a claim of laches the State has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the petitioner unreasonably delayed seeking post-conviction relief and that the State has been prejudiced by the delay. Armstrong, 747 N.E.2d at 1120. The burden of proving laches rests entirely upon the State. Wilkerson v. State, 728 N.E.2d 239, 243 (Ind.Ct.App.2000).

In its order denying Mansfield relief, the post-conviction court acknowledged three times that the State had not pleaded or proved the affirmative defense of laches. Nonetheless, the post-conviction court took it upon itself to find sua sponte that Mansfield's claim was barred by the doctrine of laches. In so doing, the post-conviction court stepped outside its judicial role, looking to the facts of the case and concluding without evidence or argument from the State that Mansfield unreasonably delayed in seeking relief and that the State was prejudiced thereby. The post-conviction court's actions were improper.

Although the facts make this a seemingly easy case for application of the doctrine of laches, it remains that the burden of pleading and proving such was with the State. Here, the State failed to respond to Mansfield's amended petition, let alone assert the affirmative defense of laches, and failed to present any evidence at the post-conviction hearing. Thus, the State wholly failed to carry its burden. We therefore conclude that the post-conviction court erred in denying Mansfield relief based upon the doctrine of laches.

Mansfield requests that the post-conviction court's decision be reversed, and that his petition for post-conviction relief be granted, thereby vacating his conviction and granting him a new trial. The State agrees that the trial court improperly denied Mansfield's petition for post-conviction relief based upon the doctrine of laches, but requests that we remand for further proceedings. We disagree with both requested outcomes, and for...

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5 cases
  • Chupp v. State Of Ind.
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • September 7, 2010
    ...for an unreasonable time, under circumstances permitting due diligence, to do what in law should have been done. Mansfield v. State, 850 N.E.2d 921 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006). Laches is an affirmative defense which the State must plead in its responsive pleading. Id. To prevail on a claim of lach......
  • Hopper v. State Of Ind.
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • August 2, 2010
    ...the record was missing and the petitioner said nothing about any advisement or lack of advisement of rights); Mansfield v. State, 850 N.E.2d 921, 925 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006) (holding that the petitioner did not establish that he was not advised of his Boykin rights where the petitioner merely ......
  • Webster v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • September 28, 2012
    ...for an unreasonable time, under circumstances permitting due diligence, to do what in law should have been done.” Mansfield v. State, 850 N.E.2d 921, 923 (Ind.Ct.App.2006) (citing Armstrong v. State, 747 N.E.2d 1119, 1120 (Ind.2001)), trans. denied. “To prevail on a claim of laches the Stat......
  • State v. Vickers
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • February 21, 2012
    ...to the extent the post-conviction court's grant of relief rests upon the lack of a record, this was error. See Mansfield v. State, 850 N.E.2d 921, 925 (Ind.Ct.App.2006), trans. denied. Accordingly, we must look to other evidence in the record supporting the judgment to determine whether Vic......
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