Reversal: Man’s drug convictions again tossed for speedy-trial violation

A Clark County man has again had his drug-related convictions vacated after the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded he was entitled to have them discharged when his request for a speedy trial was not met.

Jarvis Peele, who had three drug convictions overturned in August after the appellate court concluded drug evidence found in his sock shouldn’t have been admitted, had additional drug convictions reversed on Wednesday in a separate cause.

In Jarvis Peele v. State of Indiana,19A-CR-01160, Jeffersonville law enforcement arrested Peele, who was charged with Level 6 felony possession of methamphetamine and two counts of Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement. Police found Peele lethargic and uncooperative in an abandoned warehouse. A struggle ensued when officers attempted to handcuff him, and they later found meth in Peele’s pants pockets during a search.

Peele requested a speedy trial at his initial hearing, but the Clark Circuit Court granted the state’s Indiana Criminal Rule 4(D) motion to continue after the state asserted it was waiting to receive lab results from Indiana State Police. The jury trial was thus rescheduled, prompting Peele to write a letter to the court asking for a replacement appointed counsel. Peele asserted that his counsel had put his constitutional rights in jeopardy “by not filing the proper motions and/or failing to prepare a defense against the State[’]s continuance of a trial date past [Peele’s] fast and speedy trial date.”

During a hearing on Peele’s subsequent motion for discharge, the state conceded it did not request lab results until the same day it had first informed the court that it intended to file its motion to continue. However, Peele’s request was denied, and a jury found him guilty.

In a reversal of the trial court’s decision to continue Peele’s trial, the Indiana Court of Appeals rejected the state’s assertion that Peele had waived his speedy-trial request by not objecting to the new trial date at his first opportunity, instead concluding that he had.

First, it noted that during the initial status conference, Peele was informed that he did not have to bother objecting because it would be “assumed.” Likewise, it found Peele’s letter to the court sufficed to notify it of his objection to the new trial date and desire for new counsel as a result. Lastly, the appellate court noted that there was nothing about any purported waiver in Peele’s case that justified disregarding the clear violation of his speedy-trial rights.

“There is no question that the State failed to take reasonable efforts to procure the lab test results for purposes of Rule 4(D), and, as such, the trial court erred when it granted that motion,” Judge Edward Najam wrote for the appellate court. “We hesitate to use the term ‘abuse of discretion,’ however, as the basis for the error was hidden from the court by the deputy prosecutor at the time of his motion. Indeed, we have no hesitation in concluding that the deputy prosecutor’s omission of this obviously relevant information supports an inference that the State had not by then made a reasonable effort to procure the evidence.

“Peele preserved his speedy trial rights but was not brought to trial until well after the expiration of seventy days,” the appellate court concluded. “As such, he was entitled to discharge of the charges against him, and the trial court erred when it granted the State’s Rule 4(D) motion to continue.”

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