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Court affirms delay in jury trial for congestion

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The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected a defendant's arguments that because his request for a speedy trial was in writing, his trial should take priority over another man's trial scheduled for the same day.

In Daniel E. Wilkins v. State of Indiana, No. 02A03-0804-CR-190, the appellate court affirmed Daniel Wilkins' convictions of robbery, criminal confinement, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. The Court of Appeals ruled the trial court didn't violate his right to a speedy trial when it delayed Wilkins' jury trial on a finding of court congestion.

Wilkins' request for a speedy trial was granted and his trial was scheduled for Nov. 7, 2007. At a pretrial conference, the court discovered a scheduling conflict with the defense counsel and prosecutors because the trial of Leon Kyles was scheduled the same day and they were to appear in that trial, too.

On Nov. 7, the trial court continued Wilkins' trial due to court congestion when it discovered that Kyles had asked for an early trial one day before Wilkins. With no objection, Wilkins' trial was rescheduled and he was convicted in February 2008.

Since Wilkins didn't raise an objection, he waived his claim on appeal. However, his appeal would also fail because he didn't show the court erred in delaying his trial due to court congestion. Wilkins argued that his request should have taken priority because his and Kyles' requests were made "virtually at the same time" and he made his request in writing whereas Kyles made a verbal request.

The Court of Appeals rejected his argument because Ind. Criminal Rule 4(B) makes no requirement that requests be made in writing and the motions were not filed at the same time. The appellate court also found Wilkins' reliance on Bowers v. State, 717 N.E.2d 242, 245 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999), to be misplaced.

The issue of whether appellate delays constitute court congestion or an emergency as it relates to a defendant's speedy trial rights is currently pending before the Indiana Supreme Court. The high court granted transfer in August 2008 to Robert J. Pelley v. State, No. 71A05-0612-CR-726, in which the Court of Appeals reversed Pelley's four murder convictions and held the state's interlocutory appeal was chargeable to the state for purposes of the speedy trial rule, thus making Pelley entitled to a discharge.

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