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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today, re speedy trial

In Scott Logan v. State of Indiana, an 18-page decision, Justice David writes [ILB emphasis]:

“To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.” MAGNA CARTA, § XXIX. First articulated in the Magna Carta, the right to a speedy trial is fundamental in our jurisprudence. Klopfer v. North Carolina, 386 U.S. 213, 223 (1967). Together with Indiana Criminal Rule 4(C), the right to a speedy trial, as guaranteed by the United States and Indiana Constitutions, ensures those accused of criminal charges speedy administration of justice. In this case, appellant Scott Logan challenges the 1,291-day delay that elapsed between the State’s filing of a class C felony child molestation charge against him and the beginning of his trial as a violation of both Rule 4(C) and his constitutional right to a speedy trial. Ultimately, Logan was convicted and sentenced to six years executed—a sentence that, when his earned good-time credit is considered, Logan essentially served before his trial even began.

Though Rule 4(C) implements a defendant’s right to a speedy trial, our analysis of an alleged Rule 4(C) violation is distinct from that of a claimed constitutional violation, as both constitutions provide a defendant with broader protection of this fundamental right. Illustrating why Indiana affords defendants dual means of securing a speedy trial, here we conclude that despite the trial court’s technical compliance with Rule 4(C), Logan’s unduly long delay violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial. * * *

On appeal, Logan maintained that he was entitled to discharge under Rule 4(C) and that he was deprived of his right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 12 of the Indiana Constitution. Finding that the trial court did not err in denying Logan’s motion for discharge under Rule 4(C) and that Logan failed to demonstrate that the delays in his trial violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial, the Court of Appeals affirmed his sentence. Logan v. State, No. 20A05-1304-CR-192, Slip. op. at *10 (Ind. Ct. App. February 28, 2014).

Logan subsequently petitioned this Court to address both issues. We granted transfer, thereby vacating the opinion below. See Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A). * * *

All four Barker factors weigh in Logan’s favor and compel the conclusion that the delay of three years, six months, and eleven days between the filing of the charge against him and the beginning of his trial for class C felony child molestation violated his right to a speedy trial under the U.S. and the Indiana Constitutions. Specifically guaranteed in both constitutions, the right to a speedy trial is a fundamental right of the accused that trial courts must be diligent in protecting and defendants zealous in asserting. Id. at 533. When, on balance, the length of the defendant’s wait for trial, the reasons behind the delay, the defendant’s assertion of his or her right, and the presence of prejudice to the defendant as a result of the delay show that the trial court has not assiduously safeguarded the defendant’s right to a speedy trial, then the defendant must not face the charges filed against him or her.

To prevent the potential for any subsequent violation of a defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial due to protracted court congestion, we encourage trial courts to consider setting the defendant’s trial date at his or her first initial hearing and to remain diligent in monitoring the age of these cases. We acknowledge that the State has a vested interest, and indeed an obligation, in monitoring criminal cases to ensure that defendants are brought to justice in a timely manner.

In this particular case, the record reflects that jury trials were scheduled on an average of twenty to twenty-four dates each year. Considering the trial court’s limited availability and Logan’s repeated assertion of his right, we urge trial judges facing similar circumstances to consider, when they deem it necessary, going outside their standard practice in establishing jury trial dates to ensure that a defendant’s right to a speedy trial is guaranteed. For example, a trial judge could move a previously set civil trial in favor of a criminal defendant, start a criminal trial on a different day of the week (say, a Wednesday instead of the typical Monday), or delegate certain tasks to a magistrate in order to free up resources to try the defendant.

We are not suggesting, nor implying, that our trial judges must do the impossible. We are simply reiterating that they are the gatekeepers of justice. Our trial courts must continue to be diligent, adaptable, and creative in an effort to secure a criminal defendant’s fundamental right to a speedy trial.

Conclusion. We therefore order Logan released from incarceration, vacate his conviction for class C felony child molestation, and remand to the trial court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

ILB: The now vacated Feb. 28, 2014 NFP Court of Appeals opinion concluded: "[T]he trial court did not err in denying Logan’s motion for discharge under Crim. R. 4(C), and Logan has failed to demonstrate that the delays in his trial violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial." This May 22nd ILB entry quotes a SBT story asking "Does Court backlog violate right to speedy trial?"

Here is the June 26, 2014 oral argument
before the Supreme Court.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 24, 2014 03:31 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions