COA: Extradited defendant caused trial delays in robbery trial

A man convicted of robbery did not convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that that he wasn’t tried within the time period allowed by the Interstate Agreement on Detainers. Instead, the delays were his fault, the appellate court found.

In Justin Noelker v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-02384, Justin Noelker was convicted of Level 3 felony robbery and admitted to being a habitual offender.

His first public defender sought and was granted a continuance of the trial date to allow additional time to complete discovery, among others things. But after Noelker was granted his request for a new public defender, more than five more continuances were granted to push forward the trial date.

Meanwhile, Noelker requested an immediate dismissal of the charges against him because he had been extradited from Florida in June 2017 and had not yet been tried in violation of the time provisions of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers. But because Noelker was represented by counsel, the trial court took no action on his letter.

The trial court later noted that the parties agreed Noelker was before the court pursuant to the provisions of the IAD and stipulated that as of the date of the May 2019 hearing, Noelker had been held for trial in Indiana for 128 days before the first defense continuance and 52 days remained to bring him to trial.

During trial in August 2019, the court denied Noelker’s motions to dismiss based on IAD violations and ultimately found him guilty as charged. Noelker appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in attributing the delay of his trial date to him and that he was tried outside of the 180-day time limit.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the Wayne Circuit Court’s decision upon finding that the trial court was correct to attribute the delay to Noelker. It first disagreed with Noelker’s assertion that that it was not reasonable for the state to rely on his counsel’s agreement to the stipulation on allowing the use of certain video depositions.

“The State was most certainly entitled to rely on Noelker’s counsel’s agreement to the use of video depositions in lieu of trial testimony even in the absence of Noelker’s personal assent to the procedure,” Judge Margret Robb wrote for the appellate court.

Additionally, it found that a late-discovered witness did not contribute to any delay of the May 2019 trial and that Noelker’s refusal to go along with the stipulation his counsel had entered caused prejudice to the state in the presentation of its case and necessitated a delay.

“In sum, it was Noelker’s — and Noelker’s alone — gamesmanship that necessitated the delay of the May 7 trial. The purpose of the speedy trial rules ‘is to assure early trials and not to discharge defendants.’ … Noelker’s conduct throughout this proceeding has hardly been consistent with an actual desire for a speedy trial and his late refusal to acquiesce in his counsel’s reasonable trial decisions reflects a strategic ploy to obtain a discharge,” the appellate court found.

“Good cause was shown in open court on April 30, 2019 for delaying the trial and Noelker has not argued that the length of the ensuing delay was unreasonable. Accordingly, the trial court did not err in denying Noelker’s motion to dismiss, made on the day of trial,” the COA concluded, finding that the 180-day time limit of the IAD had not yet expired when Noelker was tried.

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