State waited too long to file charges, court rules

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a voluntary manslaughter case on grounds that prosecutors waited too long to file charges.

Appellate judges issued a decision today in Ralph Barnett v. State of Indiana, 48A02-0605-CR-389 which stems from a 1993 physical confrontation at the Pendleton Correctional Facility. Barnett got into fight with fellow inmate Ricky Combs after being released from cells for a creation session, and Barnett maneuvered a handmade pick away from Combs before starting to walk away. When Combs attacked again, Barnett pinned him against a nearby gate and stabbed him repeatedly with the knife. Guards broke up the fight and inmates returned to their cells, where guards soon after found Combs bleeding. He later died of the stab wounds after being transported to a hospital.

The state didn't charge Barnett for 12 years, and Barnett filed a motion to dismiss on that eventual charging in July 2005 on grounds that the delay violated his due process rights. The trial judge denied the motion and a jury later found Barnett not guilty of murder, but guilty of a lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment.

In its unanimous opinion today, the Court of Appeals wrote that there is no evidence that the delay was necessary and that it hampered Barnett's ability to fully investigate the case and effectively cross-examine witnesses. Along with witnesses, the prosecutor in the case has died, the panel noted.

"Here, Barnett was clearly prejudiced by the State's unexplained and unjustified delay - whether intentional or negligent - in bringing charges," Judge James Kirsch wrote.

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  1. Freedom From Religion Foundation: If you really want to be free from religion, don't go to the Christmas Play or the Christmas Pageant or the Christmas Parade. Anything with "Christ" or Saint...fill in the blank...would be off limits to you. Then leave the rest of us ALONE!

  2. So the prosecutor made an error and the defendants get a full remedy. Just one short paragraph to undo the harm of the erroneous prosecution. Wow. Just wow.

  3. Wake up!!!! Lawyers are useless!! it makes no difference in any way to speak about what is important!! Just dont tell your plans to the "SELFRIGHTEOUS ARROGANT JERKS!! WHO THINK THEY ARE BETTER THAN ANOTHER MAN/WOMAN!!!!!!

  4. Looks like you dont understand Democracy, Civilized Society does not cut a thiefs hands off, becouse now he cant steal or write or feed himself or learn !!! You deserve to be over punished, Many men are mistreated hurt in many ways before a breaking point happens! grow up !!!

  5. It was all that kept us from tyranny. So sad that so few among the elite cared enough to guard the sacred trust. Nobody has a more sacred obligation to obey the law than those who make the law. Sophocles No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we ask him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor. Theodore Roosevelt That was the ideal ... here is the Hoosier reality: The King can do no wrong. Legal maxim From the Latin 'Rex non potest peccare'. When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal. Richard Nixon