ANDERSON — A man who pleaded guilty to raping a 6-year-old girl in 1996 had an appeal on several issues, including his sentence length, denied on Tuesday.
Juan Manzano, 48, had the 50-year executed sentence for rape upheld, and the Indiana Appellate Court denied his post-conviction relief appeal. Manzano is serving the sentence in New Castle Correctional Facility and is projected for release in 2018. He has already had his automatic appeal denied, and Tuesday's decision likely means he will have to complete the rest of the sentence.
Manzano's appeal called into question the effectiveness of his legal counsel in both the trial and the initial appeal as well as what was characterized as a "harsh" sentence despite the plea of guilty.
According to court documents, on Sept. 14, 1996, Manzano went out to drink at several bars with friends for the night. When he returned to his home in the Alexandria area, he raped the girl, who later identified Manzano as her assailant. Manzano later admitted to the offense and pleaded guilty.
The decision, which was handed down by appellate Judge Paul Mathias, denied each aspect of Manzano's appeal. He cited the standard of review for post-conviction relief appeals, writing: "To prevail on appeal from the denial of post-conviction relief, the petitioner must show that the evidence as a whole leads unerringly and unmistakably to a conclusion opposite that reached by the post-conviction court."
Ultimately, Mathias said the level of counsel Manzano appealed in trial and appellate cases wouldn't have made a difference, mainly because he pleaded guilty and there was overwhelming evidence for conviction.
Additionally, Mathias decided the 50-year sentence wasn't inappropriate in Manzano's case. Though pleading guilty and sparing the victim the trauma of trial is usually a mitigating factor, Mathias called the offense "heinous ... and ... horrific." He also took into account the girl's age.
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