COA: Man’s actions waived right to speedy trial

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An Indiana man convicted of multiple felony drug charges lost his appeal of his lack of a speedy trial because his actions, including his failure to object to a later trial date, waived his right to such a trial, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

In Lawrence Benton Roper v. State of Indiana, 53A04-1607-CR-1691, Lawrence Roper was charged with various drug-related felonies, as well as a charge of felony possession of a firearm by a serious violent felony and being a habitual offender. Roper, proceeding pro se, verbally requested a “fast and speedy trial” at a hearing on June 25, 2015.

The parties appeared in court on Aug. 27, but the pre-trial hearing was continued to Sept. 24. At the September hearing, Roper, again proceeding pro se, requested a continuance because he had hired counsel the day before. As a result of that request, Roper signed a motion for continuance that contained a waiver of his right to a speedy trial under Criminal Rule 4.

At a subsequent hearing on Nov. 19, Roper moved for another continuance of the trial, which was then reset for Feb. 22, 2016. When Roper requested a third continuance in January 2016, the trial was moved to April.

At the April trial, a jury found Roper guilty of four of his six charges, and he pleaded guilty to being a habitual offender and waived his right to be sentenced within 30 days. But one month later, Roper moved to discharge his conviction, arguing the Monroe Circuit Court had failed to bring him to trial within the Criminal Rule 4(B) timeframe.

The trial court denied Roper’s motion. On appeal, he argued the court had erred by doing so. But the Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed, with Judge Melissa May writing in a Friday opinion that Roper “made no effort to object or otherwise bring any violation of that speedy trial request to the court’s attention until after he was convicted in April 2016.”

“He waffled about whether he was going to retain counsel at his initial hearing, at his bail review hearing, and at the hearing on August 27, 2015,” May wrote. “That August 27, 2015, hearing was mere days before the time limit would expire on Roper’s speedy trial request, and yet Roper did not object to the resetting of that hearing to date past his speedy-trial deadline.”

“Furthermore, at the hearing following the expiration of the seventy-day deadline (under Criminal Rule 4(B)(1)), Roper signed a written Motion for Continuance that included a waiver of his right to a speedy trial under Criminal Rule 4,” May continued. “Roper’s conduct is inconsistent with a desire to have his case tried in a speedy manner, and acted, in conjunction with his other actions, as a waiver of his Criminal Rule 4(b) request.”

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