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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Ind. Courts - Court ruling filling up calendars: State justices decide jailed defendants must be tried within 6 months of arrest

"State justices decide jailed defendants must be tried within 6 months of arrest" is the headline to a lengthy story by Sara Eaton in today's Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Some quotes:

Half a dozen attorneys surrounded Allen Superior Court’s criminal cases scheduler Wednesday, some looking harried, some frantically scanning their Palm Pilots. When given a date for a trial in mid-January, defense attorney Quinton Ellis blurted out, “January. That’s next month. I can’t be ready by then.”

The scene Wednesday was caused by an Indiana Supreme Court ruling from late August that essentially put a new twist on an old law. It has forced attorneys, judges and court officials to scramble and reschedule trials in pending cases with jailed defendants.

The twist has caused a frenzy because some cases must be rescheduled sooner or defendants could be released from jail without posting a bond.

Anyone charged with a crime being housed in jail must be tried within six months of being arrested. Sounds simple enough, but previously defendants were expected to voice an objection when the trial was being scheduled if they wanted the trial to happen sooner.

The Indiana Supreme Court, while addressing an appeal stemming from a Tipton County murder case, ruled that defendants no longer have to lodge that objection, meaning a trial must be scheduled on the court calendar within six months of the arrest.

And, if a defendant is held at the jail for six months and has not been tried, the court must release the person from jail. The charges are not dismissed, but the person is free without paying any type of bond. * * *

The Supreme Court ruling provides only limited circumstances when a trial can be delayed beyond the six-month time frame: A defense attorney can ask the court for a continuance; if acts of the defendant cause such a need; or if a judge must delay the case because of trial court congestion, meaning several trials are scheduled to begin on the same day.

A person charged with murder in the death of a 10-year-old girl in southern Indiana’s Jackson County [see below] has already cited the ruling in a motion seeking release from jail pending the outcome of his case, according to The Associated Press. No ruling has been issued, but his case has been pending for about eight months.

Here is the AP story on the Jackson County case, via the Dec. 2, 2005 Indianapolis Star.

The Supreme Court ruling is State ex rel. Michael Bramley v. Tipton Circuit Court, a "published order granting permanent writ of mandamus," entered 8/26/05. Access it here. See also this ILB entry from 9/1/05 titled "Man jailed for 526 days on murder charge freed."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 4, 2005 08:18 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions