WARSAW — A request for post-conviction relief has been denied for Ian J. Clark, 41. Kosciusko Circuit Court Judge Michael Reed issued the denial Wednesday, April 6.
Clark was sentenced in April 2008 to life without parole for the death of a 2-year-old. He has been incarcerated at the Indiana State Prison, Michigan City. Following his conviction, Clark filed an appeal directly to the Indiana Supreme Court. That court upheld the trial courts conviction and sentencing for murder on Oct. 15, 2009.
On Jan. 15, Clark was returned to Kosciusko County for a two-hour post-conviction relief hearing. The hearing focused on the actions of J. Brad Voelz, now the county’s chief deputy prosecuting attorney, who was a private attorney at the time of Clark’s appeal.
Reed’s conclusion of law found Clark failed to prove he was denied effective assistance of either trial counsel or appellate counsel as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and he failed to prove that either his trial or appellate counsel’s performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness based on prevailing professional norms; and that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceedings would have been different.
Reed responded to each of the items in the post-conviction relief petition in a five-page ruling. These areas included:
- Clark being denied his constitutionally protected right to the effective assistance of appellate counsel.
- Appellate counsel was deficient and Clark was prejudiced as a result of the following acts of omissions: failing to present an issue the trial court erred by permitting the state to amend the murder charge mid-trial; that he refused a pre-trial plea offer for a fixed term; only three instances were noted in the use of the term of evil when there was significantly more. (It was noted during Friday’s hearing the amendment was to correct a grammatical error in the original filing of the murder charge.)
- Trial counsel failed to withdraw the insanity defense until the third day, allowing the jury to receive irrelevant and prejudicial information about the insanity defense.
- The trial counsel failed to object to prosecutorial misconduct during its closing argument when the state presented Clark started drinking to cover his act.
The judge noted during the state’s rebuttal closing the prosecutor made a single comment “as attorneys in the future read the case law and they read the case of State of Indiana v. Ian Clark, or Ian Clark v. the State, this case will stand for the proposition that this community and this state will not tolerate what happened here.” The judge found the statement was immediately followed by “It will also stand for the proposition that this, these facts that are sufficient to support the inference that the defendant knowingly and intentionally murdered Samantha. I am asking you to find the defendant guilty of murder …”
He ruled there is no probative evidence comments were “so persuasive” as to render the jury’s verdict unreliable, especially given the defendant/petitioner’s own admission to killing the child and the evidence of the brutality of the crime, no proative evidence trial counsel or appellate counsel’s representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and that counsel committed errors so serious, the petitioner did not have “counsel” guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, and no probative evidence that but for any alleged errors by trial counsel or appellate counsel, the result of the proceeding would have been different.