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Judges rule man's right to speedy trial was violated

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The state had an affirmative duty to pursue prosecution of a defendant under his right to a speedy trial, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today. The appellate court also disapproved of the state’s blanket policy to not attempt to secure the attendance of an accused incarcerated person in a foreign jurisdiction until he has finished serving his sentence there.

In Alphonzo Fisher v. State of Indiana, No. 10A01-1001-CR-21, Alphonzo Fisher challenged the denial of his motion to discharge. Fisher was charged with Class A felony dealing in cocaine in June 2001 with a pre-trial hearing set for December 2001. At the time of the hearing, Fisher was in federal custody on an unrelated case.

In 2006, Fisher’s attorney filed notice of availability for prosecution and an objection to the delay of prosecution. In December 2007, he filed a motion to discharge because his constitutional and statutory speedy trial rights had been violated, which the trial court denied. The trial court granted Fisher’s motion for transport for the final pre-trial conference in December 2008, which the state objected to because it would violate the Interstate Agreement on Detainers. Fisher objected and filed two pro se motions to dismiss in 2009, which were denied.

On interlocutory appeal, the trial court asked whether the state has an affirmative obligation to pursue prosecution under the circumstances of Fisher’s case. The appellate court said yes, and even the state acknowledged its affirmative duty to pursue prosecution of Fisher.

But the appellate court also had to examine the four factors under Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972), to determine whether Fisher’s constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated. They found the length of the delay in the case to be long and took issue with the state’s broad policy of foregoing prosecution of a defendant until the defendant completes serving time in a foreign jurisdiction. The policy is not an acceptable justification for delaying his trial.

“We certainly cannot approve of a blanket policy to sit back and wait for a defendant to complete his sentence in a foreign jurisdiction, especially under the facts of this case where the delay in prosecution is substantial,” wrote Judge Ezra Friedlander. “While there may very well be valid reasons underlying the State’s express policy to delay prosecution until such time as a defendant finishes serving time in a foreign jurisdiction, the State’s affirmative duty to diligently, and in good faith, pursue prosecution of defendants is the overriding factor to consider.”

That Fisher asserted his right to a speedy trial also weighs in his favor, noted the judge. They decided not to address the fourth Barker factor – actual prejudice – in light of the excessive delay, inexcusable explanation for the delay and Fisher’s assertion of his right to a speedy trial. They reversed the trial court and remanded with instructions to dismiss the underlying action against Fisher.
 

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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