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Judges order new trial due to counsel’s deficient performance

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A Marion County man was prejudiced by his counsel’s error of not timely filing a request for a jury trial, so the Indiana Court of Appeals ordered a new trial on his Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement conviction.

Willis Pryor was represented by four different public defenders by the time his bench trial began Jan. 23, 2012. He claimed that he asked for a jury trial at a Nov. 1, 2011, hearing, although he and his attorney at the time signed a form stating there would be a bench trial in January. A different attorney then filed Pryor’s request for a jury trial on Jan. 17, 2012, but inadvertently miscalculated the deadline date. The motion was denied as untimely, and Pryor was convicted at a bench trial.

The Court of Appeals reversed in Willis Pryor v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1202-CR-101, finding trial counsel’s failure to preserve Pryor’s right to a jury trial denied him effective assistance of counsel. His counsel’s performance was deficient and he was prejudiced by it. The judges cited Stevens v. State, 689 N.E.2d 487 (Ind. Ct. App. 1997), and Lewis v. State, 929 N.E.2d 261 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010), in support of his argument that failure to file a timely demand was a mistake and not a choice or trial strategy by his attorney.

“Based upon the record, we find that the failure of Pryor’s counsel to timely file a written request for a jury trial fell below the range of professionally competent representation,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote.

 

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