COA: 4-year delay in trial did not violate speedy trial rights

The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed an Anderson man’s arson conviction after finding his actions contributed to a four-year delay in his trial, so his right to a speedy trial was not violated.

In Rodriques Lamar Johnson v. State of Indiana, 48A02-1611-CR-2580, Rodriques Johnson threw a brick through the kitchen window of the house he shared with his mother, which belonged to the Anderson Housing Authority. Johnson then lit pieces of paper on fire and threw them through the window, while two Anderson Housing Authority employees, Nathan Ballinger and Willie Beasley, were inside.

William Hofer, another Anderson Housing Authority Employee, tried to enter the house and extinguish the fire, but Johnson blocked him. Police and fire officials arrived a short time later, and after Ballinger, Beasley and Hofer gave statements, Johnson was arrested at the scene. Repairs to the home cost the Anderson Housing Authority $5,300.41.

Johnson was charged with Class D felony arson and Class A misdemeanor criminal mischief on May 22, 2012, and the date of his jury trial was rescheduled 10 times, partially due to court congestion and partially due to various motions filed by Johnson. Among those motions were two for competency evaluations, which were granted and found him competent to stand trial each time.

Johnson’s counsel also withdrew multiple times, and he was ultimately found guilty of Class B felony arson after a September 2016 trial. Johnson then appealed, arguing his right to a speedy trial had been violated, but the Indiana Court of Appeals rejected that argument Friday.

Using the analysis laid out in Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 530 (1972), Judge Margret Robb wrote that the four-year delay in Johnson’s trial weighed in his favor, but the fact that he caused at least six of the 10 delays weighed in favor of the state. Specifically, Robb pointed to Johnson’s multiple requests for competency evaluations and continuances, as well as a request for a dispositional hearing that yielded no agreement.

Further, Johnson failed to assert his right to a speedy trial in court, nor did he ever object on constitutional grounds to the setting of any of his trial dates, Robb said. Johnson’s actions, including requests for continuance and his lack of cooperation during the competency evaluations, also show he did not desire a speedy trial, she wrote.

Finally, the appellate panel determined Johnson failed to show he was prejudiced by the numerous delays in his trial, as there is no indication the delays “‘directly undermined or impaired the defense.’”

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