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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides 4-1 that transfer was improvidently granted in speedy trial case; rare written dissent

The Supreme Court held oral argument Friday, June 1st in Corey Fletcher v. State. From the Court summary at the time:

While facing drug charges in the Tippecanoe Superior Court, the defendant argued he was entitled to discharge on grounds his right to a speedy trial had been denied. The trial court denied the motion, and a jury found the defendant guilty of a class A felony and other offenses. A divided Court of Appeals reversed in Fletcher v. State, 959 N.E.2d 922 (Ind. App. 2012), vacated. The Supreme Court has granted a petition to transfer the case and has assumed jurisdiction over the appeal.
This was a Jan. 18, 2012, 2-1 COA opinion reversing the trial court.

Released today, but filed June 12th, the Supreme Court has issued an Order stating:

After further review, including oral argument, a majority of the Court has determined that transfer was improvidently granted. Accordingly, the order granting transfer is VACATED and transfer is hereby DENIED. The Court of Appeals opinion reported as Fletcher v. Donahue, 959 N.E.2d 922 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012), is no longer vacated under Appellate Rule 58(A), and is reinstated as Court of Appeals precedent. Pursuant to Appellate Rule 58(B), this appeal is at an end.
Notably, however, this is a 4-1 order and there is a dissent to the denial of transfer by Justice Massa, who writes:
The purpose of our Criminal Rule 4 is to give predictable substance to the State and Federal Constitutional guarantees of a “speedy” trial otherwise left undefined in our charters. In this case, habitual offender and methamphetamine conspirator Corey Fletcher was arrested in February, tried and convicted in July and sentenced to forty years in prison, a fair and efficient administration of justice by any measure. He now goes free, with no corresponding benefit to the body of law that protects every citizen’s rights, and contrary to precedents of this Court.

The Court of Appeals found a violation of Criminal Rule 4 when the trial judge ignored Fletcher’s pro se request that a speedy trial commence within the required 70 days. * * * That we might suggest a better alternative in hindsight does not establish an abuse of discretion occurred, particularly when the sanction to public safety is so severe.

Fletcher’s trial was timely and fair. His rights were not violated and his conviction should be affirmed. Worse, I fear this split decision of the Court of Appeals, see Fletcher, 959 N.E.2d at 930 (Friedlander, J., dissenting), left undisturbed, may sow confusion among trial judges confronted with pro se filings by represented defendants. For these reasons, I respectfully dissent.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 14, 2012 11:24 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions