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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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