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Court splits over motion for discharge ruling

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An Indiana Court of Appeals judge dissented from his colleagues in a Criminal Rule 4(B) motion for discharge case, disagreeing with the interpretation of language in Jenkins v. State regarding the relevant time for purposes of determining whether a defendant can file a pro se motion for a speedy trial.

In Corey Fletcher v. State of Indiana, No. 79A02-1009-CR-1096, Corey Fletcher was charged Oct. 28, 2009, with various drug offenses. A public defender was appointed for him Feb. 19, 2010, and he was scheduled to go to trial May 11, 2010. Two weeks later, the appointed public defender was removed and the court appointed a new public defender. That same day, Fletcher filed a pro se motion for a fast and speedy trial. Fletcher’s new public defender didn’t file an appearance form until March 5, 2010, three days after Fletcher filed the pro se motion.

At a telephone status conference in April, Fletcher’s attorney objected to resetting the trial date past May 11. On May 12, the attorney filed a motion for discharge under Ind. Criminal Rule 4(B), which was denied. Fletcher was later convicted of two of the charges.

The issue is whether the trial court improperly denied Fletcher’s motion to discharge. The majority, after analyzing Jackson v. State, 663 N.E.2d 766, 769 (Ind. 1996), Underwood v. State, 722 N.E.2d 828, 832 (Ind. 2000), and Jenkins v. State, 809 N.E.2d 361 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004), ruled the trial court did err. The majority disagreed with the holding in Jenkins to the extent that it implies that the appointment of counsel and not the appearance of counsel is the relevant time period for determining whether a defendant may file a pro se motion for a speedy trial.

The state had argued that, as was ruled in Underwood, “once counsel was appointed, Defendant spoke to the court through counsel.” Judge Ezra Friedlander agreed with the state’s position, writing in his dissent that Fletcher didn’t clearly object to the appointment of counsel, nor did he unequivocally express that he wanted to proceed with a hybrid representation, so it leads to the conclusion Fletcher acquiesced in representation by appointed counsel.

Because counsel had been appointed before Fletcher filed his early trial motion, the court wasn’t required to accept the motion for filing or grant it, he wrote.

The majority reversed the denial of Fletcher’s motion for discharge.

 

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