Chesterton Tribune



Richard Pinkerton's murderer asks trial court to reverse conviction or sentence

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Fifteen years to the day after Richard Pinkerton was shot to death in his Porter home--ambushed on May 28, 2000, at his front door by an assailant believed to be posing as a pizza deliveryman--the man later convicted of his murder filed a petition for post-conviction relief with the original trial court, Porter Superior Court No. 2.

Christopher Matson, 50, is currently serving his sentence at the New Carlisle Correctional Facility: 65 years for murder plus 30 years for being an habitual offender.

Matson previously appealed his conviction in 2006 but raised only a single issue at the time: that evidence recovered from beneath his ex-wife’s trailer in Arizona--including the .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun determined to be the murder weapon--was obtained through a warrantless search and seizure. The Indiana Court of Appeals not quite summarily rejected Matson’s argument, on the ground he could have had no reasonable expectation of privacy “in the area under the trailer,” which Matson’s ex-wife gave investigators permission to search.

By contrast, Matson’s latest petition--filed on May 28, seeking the vacation of his “conviction and/or sentence,” and written by Matson himself acting as his own attorney--is a much more extensive piece of work, inasmuch as it finds six different grounds for a reversal:

* That his original trial attorney was unconstitutionally ineffective.

* That an OWI conviction was used improperly to classify him as an habitual offender.

* The Judge Thomas Webber erred when he imposed a sentence of 65 years, 10 years more than the presumptive term of 55.

* That he was denied various constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process.

* That his appellate attorney was unconstitutionally ineffective.

* And that he was denied the right to have his jury determine aggravating or mitigating factors during sentencing.

Re: Trial Attorney

In fact Matson doesn’t so much blame his trial attorney as he does the prosecution team for creating the circumstances under which his attorney proved, in Matson’s estimate, to be ineffective. The prosecutors did so by delaying discovery of their witness list--consisting of 86 names--until 46 days before the trial was set to begin, according to the petition.

“Counsel was not able to interview or take 86 depositions and reasonably prepare a defense with such short notice,” Matson states in his petition.

As a result, the “overburdened” defense “failed to question or cross-examine” more than half of the state’s witnesses who testified, a failure which Matson claims “resulted in the introduction of irrelevant and/or inadmissible hearsay evidence.”

Matson refers to other “deficiencies” as well: his attorney’s failure to obtain expert witness testimony on the subjects of firearms and fingerprints; and his failure “to call any witnesses” to the stand during the defense phase of the trial.

Re: Habitual Offender

Matson was convicted of three felonies prior to his murder conviction: robbery, attempted robbery, and OWI-prior. The first two were convictions for related offenses, either one of which could have been used “alone” to make an habitual-determination but not both together.

The state, accordingly, was forced to use the OWI-prior conviction--adding it to the robbery and murder convictions--to make him a three-time habitual offender, Matson states.

OWI-prior, however, is really only a misdemeanor offense enhanced under a progressive penalty statute to a felony, which Webber then cited in further enhancing Matson’s total sentence by 30 years, according to his petition.

“It is well settled that the Indiana legislature never intended for traffic offenses to serve for double enhancement in this fashion,” Matson states.

Re: Presumptive Term

According to the petition, Webber further erred when he sentenced Matson to the maximum 65 years--rather than the statutory presumptive term, 55 years--based on three “aggravating factors”: Matson’s criminal history, his “need for correctional rehabilitative treatment,” and Webber’s view that a reduced sentence would depreciate the seriousness of the crime.

To which Matson responds: Webber had already used Matson’s criminal history to label him an habitual offender and impose a 30-year bump; Webber should have provided--but did not--“a specific and individualized reason” why Matson needed an extra 10 years in prison, above and beyond the presumptive term, “for correctional rehabilitative treatment”; and a 55-year term wouldn’t have been a reduced sentence at all but simply the presumptive one.

Re: Constitutional Rights

Matson argues that prosecutors denied him a fair trail and due process by delaying the discovery of the witness list, in violation of repeated orders to do so by Webber, who scheduled his first “cut-off date for discovery” on Oct. 10, 2000. Not until March 29, 2001, however, did the state release its first witness list.

“It becomes apparent that the state’s failure to comply with the court’s orders was a blatant and deliberate attempt to prevent the defense from preparing for trial,” Matson states.

Re: Appellate Attorney

Finally, Matson considers his appellate attorney to have been as ineffective an advocate as his trial attorney.

Specifically, the appellate attorney based the appeal on a single issue--the constitutionality of the search and seizure in Arizona--when the attorney actually could have argued any number of issues, or at least six, namely, those which Matson himself raises in his petition for post-conviction relief.

Re: The Jury

Matson evidently forgot to include in his 25-page petition an argument in support of the sixth issue promised at the beginning: that the jury should have been allowed to determined any aggravating or mitigating factors during sentencing.

Porter Superior Court No. 2

Webber has long since retired from the bench of Porter Superior Court No. 2. Judge Bill Alexa now presides.

Matson has never ceased maintaining his innocence.


Posted 6/5/2015




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