Stephenson v. State

864 N.E.2d 1022 (Ind. 2007)



Post-conviction proceedings are civil proceedings that provide defendants the opportunity to raise issues not known or available at the time of the original trial or direct appeal. Thus, if an issue was known and available but not raised on direct appeal, the issue is procedurally foreclosed. If an issue was raised and decided on direct appeal, it is res judicata. If a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel was not raised on direct appeal, that claim is properly raised at a post-conviction proceeding. In post-conviction proceedings, the defendant bears the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence.


Petitioner inmate filed a petition for post-conviction relief after being convicted of burglary, theft, and three murders, and sentenced to death. The inmate contended that a requirement that he wear a stun belt at trial prejudiced his rights. The inmate did not raise the issue on direct appeal and the superior court denied his post-conviction petition. The state supreme court affirmed the denial of the post-conviction petition.


Was petitioner entitled to post-conviction relief?




Petitioner inmate's freestanding claims of error based on wearing a stun belt at trial were available on direct appeal and therefore, foreclosed in post-conviction proceedings. Because appearing in readily visible restraints was inherently prejudicial, if the issue had been raised on appeal, reversal would have been required unless the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the error did not affect the result as to either guilt or the penalty. Because petitioner's claims of newly discovered evidence largely turned on the credibility of various witnesses and were rejected by the post-conviction court, they did not undermine confidence in petitioner's convictions or death sentence.

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