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Clay County man entitled to discharge because of ruling delays

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found that Scott F. West is entitled to discharge under Indiana Criminal Rule 4(C) because he was held to answer on marijuana charges for more than a year without a trial date while his motion to suppress awaited a ruling.

West was charged in June 2009 and moved to suppress evidence in December 2009. A trial date set for March 1, 2010, was pushed back as well as the suppression hearing originally scheduled for February 2010. In June 2010, the court invited West to request a continuance to allow time for post-hearing submissions and the court’s ruling regarding the motion to suppress.

Then the case sat for a year with no activity. The original judge, Clay Circuit Judge Joseph Trout, was removed, and Judge Blaine Akers was appointed special judge in November 2011. In December 2011, West moved for discharge under Rule 4(C), which Akers denied.

On interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed. Even though West’s motion to suppress caused the initial delay in the original trial date, the year that passed with no activity before West sought a new judge can not be attributed to West, Senior Judge Randall Shepard wrote in Scott F. West v. State of Indiana, 11A01-1203-CR-123.

The appellate court rejected the state’s claim that West caused the delay by asking the court for an indefinite continuance of the June 14, 2010, trial date during the June 2010 suppression hearing. The court prompted him to move for the continuance, Shepard pointed out, and the transcript of the hearing shows that the parties and the court expected that a trial wouldn’t be set until the court ruled on the suppression motion. It was reasonable for West to expect the court would rule on his motion and that he would, if necessary, be timely tried.

The state had to bring West to trial within one year under Rule 4(C). It could have filed a praecipe under Trial Rule 53.1 for withdrawal of submission and transfer to the Supreme Court to appoint a special judge; West was not obliged to ask for a trial date, Shepard wrote.

 

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