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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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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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