The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected a man’s claim that his decision to waive his right to a jury trial deserves some mitigating consideration when sentencing him. The judges affirmed Timothy McSchooler’s three-year prison sentence for strangling his girlfriend.
In October 2013, McSchooler and Arnetta Rau argued off and on one day, with McSchooler pushing Rau into a wall and choking her. He also threatened to kill her. She punched him, escaped and called police.
McSchooler was charged with Class D felony strangulation and Class A misdemeanor battery. He waived his right to a jury trial and was convicted of both charges. The trial court entered a judgment on just the strangulation charge and sentenced him to three years in prison.
In Timothy McSchooler v. State of Indiana, 32A01-1401-CR-13, McSchooler claimed he did not validly waive his right to trial by a jury, but the Court of Appeals found he did. The record reflects he was advised of his right to a jury trial at least three times and he twice affirmatively waived that right. He had counsel during his trial, and his somewhat extensive criminal history makes it likely he knew very well what a jury was and what it meant to waive a jury trial.
He tried to rely on United States v. Delgado, 635 F.2d 889 (7th Cir. 1981), to convince the appeals court that a more detailed advisement should be required before there can be a valid waiver of the right to a jury trial. But Delgado and similar cases are not binding on state courts, Judge Cale Bradford pointed out, and these “Delgado warnings” are by no means mandatory in every case, even in federal court.
Bradford did note in a footnote that the COA judges agree with the 7th Circuit that the better course of action would be to advise a defendant as it has suggested.
McSchooler also claimed his waiver of a jury trial should be given mitigating weight, such as that given to defendants who plead guilty.
“Although the State is saved expense in both circumstances, a guilty plea often demonstrates a defendant’s acceptance of responsibility, which waiver of jury trial does not,” Bradford wrote.
Finally, the judges found his three-year sentence to be appropriate, given the assault on Rau, his criminal background and his character. McSchooler has prior convictions for Class B felony neglect of a dependent causing serious bodily injury arising from an incident where an infant in his care died, as well as battery convictions. He also appeared to not take the proceedings in this matter seriously, sleeping through them at one point.