ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE
John F. Crawford Steve Carter
Indianapolis, Indiana Attorney General of Indiana
Deputy Attorney General
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
PAUL BRIGHTMAN, ) ) Appellant (Defendant Below ), ) ) v. ) No. 49S00-0010-CR-584 ) STATE OF INDIANA, ) ) Appellee (Plaintiff Below ). )
November 15, 2001
In this direct appeal, Brightman challenges the trial courts denial of his motion
to withdraw his guilty plea, and the denial of his motion seeking to
prevent the State from opposing his withdrawal.
These charges resulted from Brightmans conduct on December 15, 1996, when he and
Sean Rich broke into the Indianapolis home of Rev. C. Frederick Mathias and
his wife Cleta to steal property. After entering the home, Brightman kicked
and killed the Mathias cat. (R. at 236-37.) As Brightman and Rich
ransacked the home, the Mathiases arrived. Brightman struck each of the Mathiases
in the head with a gun, went to the garage, found an ax
and carried it back inside the home. Rich then killed the Mathiases
by striking them both in the head with the ax. Rich started
a fire to destroy the evidence and took a hundred dollars from the
home. Brightman took a pocketknife.
Five days after Brightmans trial commenced, he pled guilty to two counts of murder. The plea agreement provided that Brightman would testify truthfully at any and all proceedings in State v. Sean Rich, and that the State would forego prosecution of the other ten charges and recommend concurrent sentences of sixty-five years for the two murder counts. (R. at 171-72, 220, 223.)
Judge Gary Miller ascertained whether Brightman understood the effect of his plea by
asking him several questions about the plea, Brightmans rights, and his satisfaction with
his attorneys performance. He invited Brightman to ask for further explanation about
anything he did not understand.
Brightmans answers revealed that he understood each charge and the range of potential
sentences that could be imposed. He also acknowledged comprehending the rights that
he waived by pleading guilty. He said the plea agreement had been
read to him, that he had asked his lawyer questions about it, and
Brightman confirmed that the factual basis for the plea agreement presented by the
State was substantially correct and that he wished to plead guilty. Judge
Miller accepted Brightmans guilty plea, saying, The Court finds that you are nineteen
(19) years old, you do understand the charges that you are pleading guilty
to, you understand the possible sentence that could be imposed upon conviction. Your
plea of guilty is being made freely and voluntarily and a factual basis
does exist for it. (R. at 238.) The court deferred sentencing
until after Richs trial.
Brightman testified at Richs trial during February 1999. The jury found Rich
guilty on four counts and hung on seven others. In December 1999,
Brightman gave a deposition in which he recanted his prior deposition and trial
testimony regarding his involvement or knowledge of the Mathias murders.
Consequently, on February 29, 2000, the State moved to set aside Brightmans plea
because he failed to testify truthfully in the Rich proceedings.
On the same day, Brightman, now represented by attorney Jack Crawford, moved to
withdraw his guilty plea. He asserted then, as he does here, that
he is innocent, that his guilty plea was involuntary, and that his counsel
was ineffective. Brightman also sought to prevent the State from
opposing his motion to withdraw his plea, inasmuch as the State was itself
seeking to set it aside.
We first address the States claim that Brightman is barred from presenting this
issue on direct appeal under
Tumulty v. State, 666 N.E.2d 394 (Ind. 1996).
In Tumulty, we held that once judgment is entered, a defendant may
not subsequently challenge his guilty plea on direct appeal. Id. at 395-96.
The correct avenue for such claims is post-conviction relief. Id. at
The present case differs from Tumulty in a significant way. Brightman sought
to withdraw his guilty plea prior to sentencing. In response, the trial
court heard evidence on the motion, reviewed the claim, and rejected it.
Indiana Code § 35-35-1-4(b) governs motions to withdraw guilty pleas. After a
defendant pleads guilty but before a sentence is imposed, a defendant may motion
to withdraw a plea of guilty. Id. The court must allow
a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea if necessary to correct a manifest
By contrast, the court must deny the motion if withdrawal of the plea
would substantially prejudice the State.
Id. In all other cases, the
court may grant the defendants motion to withdraw a guilty plea for any
fair and just reason. Id.
A trial courts ruling on a motion to withdraw a guilty plea arrives
in this Court with a presumption in favor of the ruling. Coomer
v. State, 652 N.E.2d 60, 62 (Ind. 1995). We will reverse the
trial court only for an abuse of discretion. Id. In determining
whether a trial court has abused its discretion in denying a motion to
withdraw a guilty plea, we examine the statements made by the defendant at
his guilty plea hearing to decide whether his plea was offered freely and
Voluntariness of the Plea. Judge Gary Miller began the plea hearing by questioning whether Brightman wanted to plead guilty, as his lawyer had indicated. Brightman responded affirmatively. The judge then explained that he was going to ask Brightman several questions about the plea agreement and his rights. The judge said, If you dont understand the questions I ask, please stop me and we will go over them; okay? R. at 224. Brightman again answered positively.
Further dialogue between the court and Brightman revealed that Brightman understood that he
did not have to plead guilty to any of the States charges and
had enough time to speak to a lawyer. (Id.) When questioned,
Brightman explained that he had a ninth grade education, is able to read,
but does not comprehend everything.
See footnote (R. at 225.) The judge then
confirmed with Brightmans attorney that he had read the charges to his client.
Judge Miller next read both murder counts contained in Brightmans plea agreement.
(Id.) Brightman asserted that he thought the first murder count charged felony
murder and not the regular murder. (R. at 226.) Judge Miller
clarified that the first count does charge felony murder and explained, Felony murder
occurs when during the commission of a felony someone is killed. (Id.)
And thats the description of that charge; do you understand that charge?
(Id.) After conferring with his attorney, Brightman said he understood.
Before discussing the possible penalty for each of the murder counts, the judge
again asked Brightman if he understood his charges. (R. at 227.)
Brightman responded, Yes, sir. (Id.) The judge also explained that
a guilty plea waives certain rights including his constitutional rights to a public
and speedy trial by jury and to personally confront and cross-examine witnesses presented
against him. (R. at 228-29.) The judge then asked Brightman,
And, finally do you understand by pleading guilty to these two (2) charges
you are admitting youve committed the crimes of murder . . . that
I read to you a couple of minutes ago? (R. at 229.)
Brightman answered, Yes, sir. (Id.)
Judge Miller next reviewed Brightmans plea agreement, which Brightman previously discussed with his attorney and his mother. He questioned whether Brightman had read the entire agreement before signing it. Brightman replied, It was read to me. I read most of it just so I understood it. If I had questions during it I asked [Inman]. R. at 231. The following exchange also occurred:
THE COURT: Do you believe your plea of guilty to these two (2) charges is being made freely and voluntarily?
DEFENDANT: I dont understand the question, sir.
THE COURT: Well, has anybody forced you or threatened you to get you to plead guilty?
DEFENDANT: No, sir.
THE COURT: Did anybody promise you anything to get you to plead guilty other than what is contained in this written plea agreement?
DEFENDANT: No, sir.
THE COURT: Are you doing this on your own free will?
DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Are you satisfied with the services of Mr. Inman in this case?
DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Can you think of anything that he hasnt done for you that you think he should have done?
DEFENDANT: Gag order but thats nothing.
(R. at 232-33.)
After the prosecutor read the factual basis for the plea, (R. at 233-37),
the judge asked Brightman whether he heard what the prosecutor had said and
whether the facts were substantially correct. (R. at 237.) Brightman answered
each question by saying, Yes, sir. (Id.) Brightman also confirmed that
he still wish[ed] to plead guilty to both murder counts. (R. at
238.) The trial court accepted his guilty plea. About seven months
later Brightman moved to withdraw the plea.
These hearing statements adequately demonstrate that Brightman voluntarily and knowingly pled guilty.
Before denying Brightmans withdrawal motion, Judge Miller considered Brightmans statements from the guilty plea hearing as well as his assertions at the hearing on his request to withdraw. The judge explained:
I have had the opportunity to observe Mr. Brightman give a number of statements, the television interviews, the interviews with the Sheriff . . . I saw his testimony in the Sean Rich trial. I heard him discuss his involvement at the guilty plea. Ive also seen the deposition given afterwards in which he denies his involvement, as well as his testimony at [this] hearing. I find that . . . his testimony in the matters before us today . . . is not credible . . . .
(R. at 354-55.) Having reviewed these same materials, we are satisfied that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Brightmans request to withdraw his guilty plea.
Effective Assistance of Counsel. Brightman also contends his lawyer was ineffective within
the meaning of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Brightman claims
his lawyer would not render assistance because he believed Brightman was guilty, forced
him to lie, and failed to adequately communicate with him throughout the course
To prevail on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, the defendant must show both deficient performance and resulting prejudice. Williams v. State, 706 N.E.2d 149, 154 (Ind. 1999). Deficient performance is performance that falls below an objective standard of reasonableness. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. Prejudice exists when a defendants shows there is a reasonable probability [i.e., probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome] that, but for counsels unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. Id. at 694.
Counsel is presumed competent, and whether a lawyer performed reasonably under the circumstances
is determined by examining the whole of the lawyers work on a case.
Id. at 690.
A defendant must offer strong and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption that counsel prepared and executed an effective defense. Burris v. State, 558 N.E.2d 1067, 1072 (Ind. 1990), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 922 (1995).
Brightman first asserts that his counsel would not render him assistance because his
counsel believed Brightman was guilty.
See footnote The record reveals that after Brightman made
several incriminating statements, his attorney sought to suppress them.
After a suppression hearing, the court denied the motion, and Brightmans attorney prepared
for trial. The record further reveals that Brightmans attorney participated in numerous
pre-trial hearings, participated in voir dire, used several peremptory challenges to remove potential
jurors, offered an opening statement at trial, and participated in five days of
trial. Only after the State presented its evidence including the admission
of the three taped confessions to television stations, numerous taped statements to the
police, and the deposition of Brightmans girlfriend who stated he admitted to the
crimes did Brightman withdraw his not guilty plea and enter into a
plea agreement with the State. Brightman has not presented sufficient evidence to
overcome the presumption that counsel performed competently.
Brightman next claims that his counsel forced him to lie.See footnote In a hearing on his motion to withdraw his guilty plea, Brightman asserted he was innocent and claimed his counsel told his mother, Hes going to have to take the plea bargain or hes going to get the rest of his life in prison. Im not going to do anything for him. Brightmans attorney was appointed on January 29, 1998, and the two met for the first time on February 10, 1998. Before the appointment, Brightman had given three taped confessions to the police, and three videotaped confessions to local television reporters. Judge Miller was warranted in concluding that Brightmans attorney did not prompt Brightman to lie before ever meeting him.
Looking at the whole of counsels performance, Brightmans lawyer had to confront the fact that his client had given over eight hours of inculpatory interviews on videotape, that Brightman had confessed to the murders during interviews to three television stations, and that the State had sixty witnesses on its list for trial. In the face of this significant evidence, Brightmans counsel negotiated an agreement that called for a plea to two of twelve felony charges, dismissal of the rest, and a sixty-five year concurrent sentence for the heinous murders of a minister and his wife.
We find the previously quoted remarks of Judge Miller, (R. at 354-55), in
ruling on Brightmans motion to withdraw his guilty plea, very relevant. Judge
Miller made clear that he found Brightmans repeated admissions of guilt credible and
his later assertion of innocence incredible. With regard to Brightmans counsels performance,
he went on to say: Mr. Inmans representation was way above the
minimum that our Supreme Court, both at the state and federal levels, require
for meeting the constitutional definition of effective legal assistance of counsel. (R.
Brightman has not persuaded us that his counsels performance fell below an objective
standard of reasonableness. Accordingly, he cannot succeed on his claim that he
received constitutionally deficient assistance of counsel.
As the Court of Appeals correctly explained in Shewmaker v. Etter, 644 N.E.2d
922 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994), affd sub nom., Hammes v. Brumley, 659 N.E.2d
1021 (Ind. 1995), [j]udicial estoppel prevents a party from assuming a position in
a legal proceeding inconsistent with one previously asserted. Id. at 931.
The doctrine seeks to protect the integrity of the judicial process rather than
to protect litigants from allegedly improper conduct by their adversaries. Wabash Grain,
Inc. v. Smith, 700 N.E.2d 234, 238 (Ind. Ct. App. 1998) (citing 31
C.J.S. Estoppel and Waiver § 139(b) (1996)).
The State sought to set aside Brightmans guilty plea based upon an assertion
that Brightman substantially breached the plea agreement made between him and the State.
(R. at 194.) Essentially, the remedy the State sought for the
alleged breach was a rescission of the agreement, restoring the parties to their
precontractual positions. Blacks Law Dictionary 1308 (7th ed. 1999); (R. at 193-94).
Brightmans precontractual position was that of a defendant having a plea of
The States opposition to Brightmans motion to withdraw his guilty plea addressed Brightmans
challenge to the validity of the plea agreement. (R. at 348-54.) The
State asserted that Brightman voluntarily entered the agreement and that it was factually
The States opposition to Brightmans motion to withdraw was not contrary the States
position with regard to its own motion to set aside the guilty plea.
In fact, consistency required the State to oppose Brightmans motion in order
to support its position that there was a valid agreement and Brightman breached
Moreover, even if the States position was contrary to its previous one, judicial
estoppel would apply only if the court had acted on the states prior
request. See Shewmaker, 644 N.E.2d at 931. At the time
that the State sought to oppose Brightmans withdrawal motion, the court had not
yet ruled on the States motion to set aside the guilty plea.
Therefore, the trial court properly denied Brightmans motion for estoppel.
Dickson, Sullivan, Boehm, and Rucker, JJ., concur.
(R. at 257-58.)
(R. at 263.)