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Magnolia Ross v. Heyne

December 10, 1980

MAGNOLIA ROSS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE-APPELLANT,
v.
ROBERT HEYNE AND THEODORE L. SENDAK, RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. No. S 79-127 -- Allen Sharp, Judge .

Before Sprecher, Circuit Judge, Wisdom, Senior Circuit Judge,*fn* and Bauer, Circuit Judge.

Author: Bauer

After exhausting her state court remedies, petitioner Magnolia Ross filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. She claimed that she was denied due process when the state knowingly used false testimony and that she was denied the effective assistance of counsel. The district court granted Ross' petition on the ground that she had been denied due process, but found that she was not denied the effective assistance of counsel. Ross v. Heyne, 483 F. Supp. 798 (N.D.Ind.1980).

The state appeals from the district court grant of habeas relief on the due process ground, and Ross cross-appeals from the denial of her ineffective assistance of counsel claim. We affirm the district court's grant of habeas relief on Ross' due process claim and reverse its finding that she was not denied the effective assistance of counsel.

I

Petitioner Ross and five others, Robert Spencer, Floyd Fayson, Edward Gillespie, Leroy Hemphill, and Beatrice Ivy, were accused of assaulting and robbing Father Peter Bankerovich. They were all charged with inflicting injury in the perpetration of a robbery and robbery. The trial court appointed James C. Kimbrough, now Judge of the Superior Court, Lake County, Indiana, to represent Ross and Fayson. Co-defendants Spencer and Ivy retained Judge Kimbrough's law partner, Frederick T. Work, now Judge of the City Court, Gary, Indiana, to represent them.*fn1 Defendants Spencer, Gillespie, and Fayson pleaded guilty to the robbery count, and the state dismissed the inflicting injury charge. Each was sentenced to ten to twenty-five years imprisonment.*fn2 Hemphill pleaded guilty to an amended count of armed robbery and was sentenced to ten years imprisonment. The state dropped the charges against Ivy.

Petitioner Ross was the only defendant of the six to go on trial. Co-defendants Spencer and Ivy testified for the prosecution. The combined testimony of Spencer and Ivy was the only evidence against Ross on the robbery charge.*fn3 Spencer's testimony was the only evidence on the inflicting injury charge. He testified that Ross struck Father Bankerovich with a baseball bat. Tr. at 55, 56, 69 & 70. He also testified that he was not testifying pursuant to any plea agreement.*fn4 Ross testified that although she was with the five co-defendants, she did not participate in either the robbery or the assault. Tr. at 124, 129 & 143.

The jury rejected Ross' version of the events and convicted her on both counts. On June 9, 1969, the trial court sentenced Ross to life imprisonment on the inflicting injury charge and to ten to twenty years imprisonment on the robbery count.

On January 31, 1977, petitioner filed in the trial court a belated motion to correct errors. She claimed that Spencer's testimony that he was not testifying pursuant to a plea agreement was false. Thus, she was deprived of due process when the state knowingly used this false testimony. She also claimed that she was denied the effective assistance of counsel because Judge Kimbrough's representation of her was tainted by his law partner's representation of co-defendant Spencer. A hearing was conducted at which Judge Kimbrough, Judge Work, and James Stanton, the prosecutor, testified that they knew that Spencer testified against Ross pursuant to a plea agreement. Tr. of post-trial hearing at 16, 26 & 55. Notwithstanding this testimony, the trial court found that Ross failed to show any conflict of interest or that Spencer's testimony concerning the plea agreement was false.

The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed. It agreed that Ross failed to show any conflict of interest. The supreme court, however, did not decide whether the court's finding that Spencer's testimony was true was supported by substantial evidence. It found that Judge Kimbrough knew of the agreement before Spencer testified and waived any claim of error by failing to demonstrate at trial that Spencer's testimony was false. Ross v. State, Ind., 268 Ind. 608, 377 N.E.2d 634 (1978).

The District Court for the Northern District of Indiana also found that Ross had failed to demonstrate any conflict of interest. The court, however, granted habeas relief on Ross' due process claim. It rejected the state court finding of fact and held that Spencer's testimony about the plea agreement was false. It agreed with the Indiana Supreme Court that Ross had waived error by failing to correct the testimony at trial. Notwithstanding this waiver, the district court held that the prosecutor had an absolute duty to inform the fact-finder of any known false testimony. Ross v. Heyne, 483 F. Supp. 798 (N.D.Ind.1980).

II

A

The sixth amendment guarantees each criminal defendant the right to the effective assistance of counsel. Argersinger v. Hamlin, 407 U.S. 25, 92 S. Ct. 2006, 32 L. Ed. 2d 530 (1972); Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 83 S. Ct. 792, 9 L. Ed. 2d 799 (1963). The courts have long recognized that this right may be impaired when counsel represents multiple defendants in the same case. Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60, 62 S. Ct. 457, 86 L. Ed. 680 (1942). See also Cuyler v. Sullivan, 446 U.S. 335, 100 S. Ct. 1708, 64 L. Ed. 2d 333 (1980); Holloway v. Arkansas, 435 U.S. 475, 98 S. Ct. 1173, 55 L. Ed. 2d 426 (1978). Nevertheless, multiple representation without a showing of conflict of interest is ...


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