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Divided COA: Statement on record unneeded to waive jury trial

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The majority of a Court of Appeals panel affirmed a Hendricks County man’s conviction in a bench trial of misdemeanor intimidation, but a dissenting COA judge wrote the defendant was improperly denied a jury trial and his conviction should be tossed.

Matthew Fiandt was convicted of two counts of Class A misdemeanor intimidation and one count of Class B misdemeanor harassment before Hendricks Superior Judge Mary L. Comer. The conviction was affirmed in Matthew Fiandt v. State of Indiana, 32A01-1211-CR-496.

In this case, Fiandt had requested and was granted a jury trial on July 31, 2012, within the 10-day limit for such a request since a bench trial had been continued to Aug. 14. But Fiandt’s original trial date had been scheduled for June 12, and the majority wrote that Fiandt had not made a request for a jury trial within 10 days of that date.

“Fiandt argues that he affirmatively demanded his right to be tried by a jury when he submitted his request for jury trial on July 31, 2012, prior to his bench trial scheduled for August 14, 2012. However, in order to assert the right to a jury trial in accordance with Criminal Rule 22, Fiandt was required to file his request ten days prior to his first scheduled trial date, which was June 12, 2012,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote in a majority opinion joined by Judge Mark Bailey.

“By that time, Fiandt had already waived his right to a jury trial by operation of law, no later than June 2, 2012. Fiandt did not have to make a personal, express, on-the-record statement that he was knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waiving his right to a jury trial,” the majority held.

Fiandt’s second appointed attorney filed a motion for a bench trial on Sept. 20, 2012, and dissenting judge Edward Najam noted that Fiandt didn’t sign the request and there was no evidence in the record that he knowingly waived his right to jury trial. “This was not a constitutionally effective waiver,” wrote Najam, who would reverse the convictions and remand for a jury trial.

“The majority’s reasoning does not take into account how Criminal Rule 22 and the Sixth Amendment work together. Our Criminal Rules cannot supersede constitutional principles or diminish a defendant’s fundamental rights,” Najam wrote, noting that the level of misdemeanor for which Fiandt was charged requires a reflection in the record that the defendant waived his right.

“In response to Fiandt’s clear showing of the Superior Court’s reversible error, the State responds by focusing not on the Superior Court’s decision but on whether Fiandt timely filed his jury trial request,” Najam wrote. “However, the State does not — presumably because it cannot — support its argument with citations to the record” showing Fiandt waived his right. “It is the State’s burden to support its argument with citations to the record, not Fiandt’s burden to disprove the State’s argument.”


 

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