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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court issues one today

In State v. Charlene Davis, an 11-page, 5-0, decision, Justice Rucker writes:

Today we examine the question of whether it is a violation of fundamental fairness to hold criminal charges over the head of an incompetent defendant who will never be able to stand trial. The answer in this case is yes. * * *

We can conceive of a number of instances in which the State would have some legitimate interest in determining the guilt or innocence of an accused even though the accused, in effect, had already been punished. * * *

In this case however the State makes no claim that any of the cited examples are applicable. Nor does the State otherwise argue on appeal that there is any substantial public interest to be served by the determination of Davis‟ guilt or innocence now that she may no longer be required to serve any further confinement. We also observe that the indefinite prolonging of criminal charges carries the very real likelihood of subjecting Davis to the “anxiety and scorn accompanying public accusation,” such that the trial court‟s action may be supported. * * *

Conclusion. Because Davis‟ pretrial confinement has extended beyond the maximum period of any sentence the trial court can impose, and because the State has advanced no argument that its interests outweigh Davis‟ substantial liberty interest, we conclude it is a violation of basic notions of fundamental fairness as embodied in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to hold criminal charges over the head of Davis, an incompetent defendant, when it is apparent she will never be able to stand trial.

The trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting Davis‟ motion to dismiss. We therefore affirm the trial court‟s judgment.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 18, 2008 03:33 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions