ILNews

State waited too long to file charges, court rules

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a voluntary manslaughter case on grounds that prosecutors waited too long to file charges.

Appellate judges issued a decision today in Ralph Barnett v. State of Indiana, 48A02-0605-CR-389 which stems from a 1993 physical confrontation at the Pendleton Correctional Facility. Barnett got into fight with fellow inmate Ricky Combs after being released from cells for a creation session, and Barnett maneuvered a handmade pick away from Combs before starting to walk away. When Combs attacked again, Barnett pinned him against a nearby gate and stabbed him repeatedly with the knife. Guards broke up the fight and inmates returned to their cells, where guards soon after found Combs bleeding. He later died of the stab wounds after being transported to a hospital.

The state didn't charge Barnett for 12 years, and Barnett filed a motion to dismiss on that eventual charging in July 2005 on grounds that the delay violated his due process rights. The trial judge denied the motion and a jury later found Barnett not guilty of murder, but guilty of a lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment.

In its unanimous opinion today, the Court of Appeals wrote that there is no evidence that the delay was necessary and that it hampered Barnett's ability to fully investigate the case and effectively cross-examine witnesses. Along with witnesses, the prosecutor in the case has died, the panel noted.

"Here, Barnett was clearly prejudiced by the State's unexplained and unjustified delay - whether intentional or negligent - in bringing charges," Judge James Kirsch wrote.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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