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COA: Trial delays not defendant's fault

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the denial of a motion for discharge pursuant to Criminal Rule 4(C) because the court incorrectly attributed delays to the defendant.

In Chad Gibson v. State of Indiana, No. 06A04-0903-CR-150, Chad Gibson filed a motion for discharge on July 31, 2008, because more than a year had passed since charges were first filed against him. He was charged in April 2007 with operating while intoxicated and operating a vehicle with at least 0.15 percent blood alcohol content.

Chronological case summary entries showed between July 23, 2007, and May 5, 2008, Gibson was granted several continuances and the bench trial/status was reset. During those times, Gibson never entered the courtroom, didn't ask for a continuance, and only met with a prosecutor about a possible plea agreement. In May 2008, Gibson requested a contested bench trial, which was set for July 25, 2008. The bench trial was later moved to Oct. 10, 2008, based on Gibson's counsel planning on filing a written motion for continuance. The written notice was never submitted.

At trial Gibson was found guilty and sentenced to one year, all suspended to probation.

The trial court, in denying Gibson's motion, attributed the delays to Gibson based on the CCS entries stating "Defendant is granted a continuance." While the CCS is the official record of the trial court, it's not an accurate record of what occurred in the instant case, the appellate court ruled.

A defendant can overcome the presumption that the trial court finding of court congestion is valid by showing the finding was factually or legally inaccurate, wrote Judge Margret Robb. Gibson testified at the discharge hearing he never requested a continuance and appeared in court twice to accept a guilty plea offered by the state, but it wasn't able to be completed. On Feb. 11, 2008, the prosecutor assigned to his case wasn't at court. The trial court even acknowledged the CCS entry for that date was erroneous in stating Gibson was granted a continuance, wrote the judge.

There's also no indication Gibson ever did anything within the one-year period to prevent the state from bringing him to trial. The trial court claimed the CCS entries make it clear that all but one of the re-settings were the result of Gibson's action, but the CCS entries in the instant case weren't reliable, wrote Judge Robb. Also, the trial court's decision effectively placed the burden on Gibson to ensure he was brought to trial within one year. On May 5, 2008, when he requested a contested bench trial be set, the one-year period had already run so he had no obligation to object to the setting of the trial date, she 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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