State v. Daniels, No. 49S00-9411-SD-1079

Docket NºNo. 49S00-9411-SD-1079
Citation680 N.E.2d 829
Case DateMay 16, 1997
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

Page 829

680 N.E.2d 829
STATE of Indiana, Appellant/Respondent,
v.
Michael William DANIELS, Appellee/Petitioner.
No. 49S00-9411-SD-1079.
Supreme Court of Indiana.
May 16, 1997.

Page 830

Pamela Carter, Atty. Gen., Meredith J. Mann, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellant.

Judith G. Menadue, Elkhart, Mark A. Earnest, Indianapolis, for appellee.

BOEHM, Justice.

The State appeals from a grant of postconviction relief to defendant Michael William Daniels. The postconviction court granted summary judgment in favor of Daniels, vacating his sentences of death and 130 years and imposing a sentence of sixty years. On September 16, 1996, this Court issued an order reversing the postconviction court's grant of summary judgment for Daniels. This opinion sets forth the reasons for the September 16, 1996 order.

Factual and Procedural History

In August 1979, Daniels was sentenced to death following his conviction by a jury of felony murder, attempted robbery and four counts of robbery. In 1983 we affirmed his convictions on direct appeal. Daniels v. State, 453 N.E.2d 160 (Ind.1983). Prior to his trial, Daniels had entered into a guilty plea agreement that the trial court ultimately rejected under the circumstances detailed below. One of the issues raised by Daniels on direct appeal was that the trial court erred in rejecting his plea agreement. This Court held that "it was within the trial court's discretion to reject the plea." Id. at 165. On February 6, 1984, Daniels filed his first petition for postconviction relief. The postconviction court's denial of relief was upheld by this Court. Daniels v. State, 528 N.E.2d 775 (Ind.1988). However, in Daniels v. Indiana, 491 U.S. 902, 109 S.Ct. 3182, 105 L.Ed.2d 691 (1989) the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari and remanded the case to this Court for reconsideration in the light of its then recent decision in South Carolina v. Gathers, 490 U.S. 805, 109 S.Ct. 2207, 104 L.Ed.2d 876 (1989). On remand, this Court again affirmed the trial court's denial of postconviction relief, concluding that Gathers did not apply retroactively in collateral attacks on pre-Gathers death penalty proceedings. Daniels v. State, 561 N.E.2d 487 (Ind.1990).

Daniels' second petition for postconviction relief was filed on November 22, 1993. As his eighth claim for relief in that petition, Daniels asserted that the trial court committed fundamental error by rejecting Daniels' plea of guilty. In support of his claim, Daniels relied upon the following extremely unusual set of procedural steps. At a pretrial conference on November 8, 1978, Daniels filed a motion to withdraw his former plea of not guilty and enter a plea of guilty. Record at 96-97. 1 The motion was in a form prescribed

Page 831

by the trial judge with blanks filled in, presumably by the parties. That same day, a plea hearing was held during which the trial judge determined the voluntariness of the plea, established a factual basis, and advised Daniels of his rights. Record at 390-450. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial judge stated, "I'll take the motion to enter a plea of Guilty under advisement, pending your pre-sentence report...." Record at 450. He then set a date for a sentencing hearing. The motion consisted of a two-page document with more than twelve paragraphs of double spaced typewritten matters, including several blanks. A number of handwritten entries adapt the form to the particulars of Daniels' case. The document recites Daniels' desire to withdraw his not guilty plea and advises Daniels of his rights should he plead guilty. This final paragraph, in the same font as the rest of the document but single spaced, appears above the date and signature lines:

The Court having personally addressed the defendant and having advised him of his rights and having determined that he understands the same and has entered his plea voluntarily and not by reason of any promises, force or threats having been made to him, now accepts the defendant's plea of guilty and orders this Motion and Certificate of Counsel to be made a part of the transcript of the entire proceedings of the guilty plea hearing and sentence herein.

Entered: _____________________ ______________________________

Judge

Handwritten on these lines are "11/8/78" and the judge's signature. Record at 96-97. At the sentencing hearing held a month later, the trial judge again stated that "[t]he plea of guilty was taken under advisement pending determination of certain other matters including the ultimate propriety of the plea agreement." Record at 456. The trial judge then rejected Daniels' plea of guilty and set the case for jury trial. Record at 462-69. At that hearing, Daniels raised no objection to the rejection on the ground that the agreement had already been accepted. Rather, he argued that the trial court should, or must, accept the plea because all the proper procedural steps had been followed. It is clear from the record that the parties and the trial judge assumed that no ruling had been made as to the plea agreement. As noted above, on direct appeal this Court held that the rejection was within the trial court's discretion.

In 1994, in his second postconviction proceeding Daniels, for the first time, contended that the trial court was bound by the tendered plea agreement not because it had been properly bargained and the necessary procedure followed, as he had argued before, but because of the trial court's acceptance in 1978. The second postconviction court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Daniels, concluding that by signing Daniels' Plea Motion, the trial judge accepted Daniels' guilty plea and was bound by the plea agreement. The postconviction court found that jeopardy attached upon acceptance of the guilty plea, vacated the death penalty, and imposed concurrent sentences totaling sixty years pursuant to the plea agreement. The State appealed.

Standard of Review

Indiana Postconviction Rule 1(4)(g) provides that summary disposition in a postconviction proceeding is appropriate when "there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." 2 Postconviction proceedings

Page 832

are civil in nature and the defendant-petitioner has the burden of establishing his grounds for relief. P-C.R. 1(5). Thus, the well-established summary judgment standard of Indiana Trial Rule 56(C) is applicable. Summary judgment is appropriate only when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. T.R. 56(C). The burden is on the moving party to prove each element of its claim by admissible evidence and to establish that there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Once the movant has sustained this burden, the opponent must respond by setting forth specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial; the opponent may not simply rest on the allegations of the pleadings. Stephenson v. Ledbetter, 596 N.E.2d 1369, 1371 (Ind.1992).

In this case, the postconviction court entered specific findings of fact and conclusions of law. Specific findings and conclusions are neither required nor prohibited in the summary judgment context. Althaus v. Evansville Courier Co., 615 N.E.2d 441, 444 (Ind.Ct.App.1993). Although specific findings aid appellate review of a summary judgment ruling, they are not binding on appellate courts. Id. The party appealing from the grant of summary judgment must persuade the appellate tribunal that the trial court erred. "[T]he reviewing appellate court faces the same issues that were before the trial court and follows the same process." 3 Indiana Dept. of State Revenue v. Caylor-Nickel Clinic, 587 N.E.2d 1311, 1313 (Ind.1992). Any doubts as to fact, or an inference to be drawn therefrom, are to be resolved by the trial court, and will be resolved by this court, in favor of the nonmoving party. Perry v. Stitzer Buick GMC, Inc., 637 N.E.2d 1282, 1286 (Ind.1994).

I. The Guilty Plea Was Not "Accepted"

This case raises the question of what constitutes "acceptance" of a guilty plea within the doctrine of Reffett v. State, 571 N.E.2d 1227, 1230 (Ind.1991), which held that "once a plea is accepted, a court is bound by all the terms in the plea agreement...." This holding is the cornerstone of the postconviction court's reasoning in concluding that Daniels entered into a binding agreement in 1978. However, we do not agree that the circumstances of this case support the conclusion that the plea was "accepted."

Daniels argues, and the postconviction court held, that the judge accepted the guilty plea by signing the second page of the Plea Motion. The record before us shows no other entry, and no entry in the order book, with regard to the plea agreement. Specifically, we are directed to no judgment of...

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24 practice notes
  • Woods v. State, No. 06S00-9403-PD-224
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • November 23, 1998
    ...the proposition that a single matter knowable from the trial record is waived if not presented on direct appeal. Cf. State v. Daniels, 680 N.E.2d 829, 835 n. 10 (Ind.1997) (issues pertaining to trial or appellate counsel's effectiveness could not be litigated in second petition for postconv......
  • Wallace v. Davis, Cause No. IP95-0215-C-B/S (S.D. Ind. 11/14/2002), Cause No. IP95-0215-C-B/S.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Indiana)
    • November 14, 2002
    ...of due process of law; however, it is clear that fundamental error is not equated with constitutional error. State v. Daniels, 680 N.E.2d 829, 835 (Ind. 1997). To qualify as fundamental error, an error must be so prejudicial to the rights of the defendants to make a fair trial impossible. C......
  • Durden v. State, Supreme Court Case No. 18S–CR–329
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • June 20, 2018
    ...enormous savings in time, effort and expense to the parties and the court, including avoiding an appeal and retrial." State v. Daniels , 680 N.E.2d 829, 835 (Ind. 1997). If the trial court overrules the objection, the appellate court benefits from a sufficiently-developed record on which to......
  • Daniels v. Knight, No. 05-2620.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • February 5, 2007
    ...relief available 476 F.3d 431 to a petitioner under the post-conviction rules must be raised in the original petition." State v. Daniels, 680 N.E.2d 829, 835 n. 10 (Ind.1997) (citing Ind. Post-Conviction R. [T]he issue of the effectiveness of Daniels' trial and appellate counsel was extensi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
24 cases
  • Woods v. State, No. 06S00-9403-PD-224
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • November 23, 1998
    ...the proposition that a single matter knowable from the trial record is waived if not presented on direct appeal. Cf. State v. Daniels, 680 N.E.2d 829, 835 n. 10 (Ind.1997) (issues pertaining to trial or appellate counsel's effectiveness could not be litigated in second petition for postconv......
  • Wallace v. Davis, Cause No. IP95-0215-C-B/S (S.D. Ind. 11/14/2002), Cause No. IP95-0215-C-B/S.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Indiana)
    • November 14, 2002
    ...of due process of law; however, it is clear that fundamental error is not equated with constitutional error. State v. Daniels, 680 N.E.2d 829, 835 (Ind. 1997). To qualify as fundamental error, an error must be so prejudicial to the rights of the defendants to make a fair trial impossible. C......
  • Durden v. State, Supreme Court Case No. 18S–CR–329
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • June 20, 2018
    ...enormous savings in time, effort and expense to the parties and the court, including avoiding an appeal and retrial." State v. Daniels , 680 N.E.2d 829, 835 (Ind. 1997). If the trial court overrules the objection, the appellate court benefits from a sufficiently-developed record on which to......
  • Daniels v. Knight, No. 05-2620.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • February 5, 2007
    ...relief available 476 F.3d 431 to a petitioner under the post-conviction rules must be raised in the original petition." State v. Daniels, 680 N.E.2d 829, 835 n. 10 (Ind.1997) (citing Ind. Post-Conviction R. [T]he issue of the effectiveness of Daniels' trial and appellate counsel was extensi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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