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Monday, March 10, 2008

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit issues one Indiana decision today

In Asher B. Hill v. Sup't., Westville Correctional Fac. (ND Ind. Judge Simon), a 6-page opinion, Chief Judge Easterbrook writes:

Asher Hill entered a liquor store in Indianapolis, shot the clerk, and stole the contents of the cash register. For this conduct he has been convicted of several offenses and sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole, because his many convictions make him a habitual offender under Indiana law. The clerk survived and was prepared to testify against Hill but suffered a heart attack just before trial. The judge postponed the trial for two months; Hill contends, in this proceeding under 28 U.S.C. §2254, that by doing this the judge violated two of his constitutional rights. The state judiciary rejected these arguments, Hill v. State, 773 N.E.2d 336 (Ind. App. 2002), 777 N.E.2d 795 (Ind. App. 2002), as did a federal district judge, Hill v. McBride, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39599 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 30, 2006).

Hill invokes the speedy trial clause and the right to choose between counsel and self-representation. The state judge violated both rights at once, he maintains, by deferring the trial until the clerk had recovered. * * *

The best way to conduct analysis under §2254 is to assume that the state wants to act exactly as its officers (including its judges) have done, and then ask whether the federal Constitution countermands that decision. See, e.g., Gordon v. Degelmann, 29 F.3d 295, 300–01 (7th Cir. 1994); United States v. Martin, 399 F.3d 879 (7th Cir. 2005). The Constitution does not prevent a state from waiting two months for the principal witness (and victim) to recover and testify in person. See Barker, 407 U.S. at 521–22 (“If, for example, the State moves for a 60-day continuance, granting that continuance is not a violation of the right to speedy trial unless the circumstances of the case are such that further delay would endanger the values the right protects.”). It follows that Indiana has not contravened any clearly established rule of federal law.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 10, 2008 02:04 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions