The hallmark of justice in our society for serious criminal cases is a jury of one’s peers and a fair and impartial judge. No system is perfect. Human perceptions and job focus can sometimes interfere with a criminal case to such an extent a fair trial is not possible. In a new key criminal case on appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals barred trial in northern Indiana of man who was charged with the shooting death of his wife.1
At the most basic level, a person charged with a crime carries a heavy burden in society while awaiting trial. For this reason, even where a person is free from incarceration pending trial, he or she still must be tried within one year of the time the case was charged.2 However, continuances sought by the defendant or other delays by the defendant do not factor into this time. If a year of aggregate time passes attributable to the state, the defense may move to discharge the case.
In this particular case, the state and defendant, Larkin, agreed to a time period for Larkin and the state for trial, which passed. Larkin then moved to dismiss. The trial court judge agreed, as did the majority for the appeal–the case had to be dismissed or discharged because local prosecutors and law enforcement, “did everything in their power to intentionally violate this Defendant’s rights and civil rights, and make it as difficult as possible for him to obtain a speedy trial”. In more routine cases, the state still has to follow this rule and failure to do so may result in the case being discharged (dismissed). This caused the time to bring Larkin to trial to pass.
In a much more stinging indictment of the failures of the law enforcement and prosecutorial systems in this particular case, the majority of the three (3) judges admonished both in also dismissing the case and barring retrial, holding, “The State’s actions here threaten the public trust in our criminal justice system. This cannot and will not be tolerated.”
While the majority of police and prosecutors have a life-long dedication to the integrity of the system and fair and impartial justice, no system is infallible. This case shows both the time a criminal case pends and bias may bar prosecution and reflects the balance an impartial judge and our appellate court play in the system. Specifically, this shows the careful checks and balances that exist for all of our constitutional rights, particularly where loss of freedom is at hand.
However, in a complex criminal case or one with serious jail time, it is key to know these protections, but also understand your own duty. If Larkin’s defense counsel did not object to these miscarriages of justice, Larkin could have waived the issue and be precluded from relief in the trial court and/on appeal. Do your homework and retain skilled defense counsel. Choose wisely. Your freedom and future may depend on it. And if necessary, take the same care in retaining appellate counsel.
This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle a wide array of criminal defense cases and appeals throughout the state. This blog post is written for general educational purposes and not specific legal advice or a solicitation of legal services. It is an advertisement.
- State of Indiana v. John B. Larkin, 46A04-1697-CR-1522 (June, 2017).
- Indiana Rule of Criminal Procedure 4 ( C). These cases are very fact sensitive and controversial. In a similar split between 2 of 3 judges, see State v. Penwell, 875 N.E.2d 365, 368 (Ind.Ct.App.2007), trans. denied, denying discharge; the dissent stated, “I believe the State fell asleep at the switch here, and that the delay in setting a trial date for Penwell after the United States Supreme Court denied her petition for certiorari is chargeable to the state.