Oral Argument Preview: Does the Filing of a Motion to Suppress by One Defendant Automatically Toll A Co-Defendant’s Speedy Trial Time? State v. Ramey.

On June 28, 2012, the Supreme Court of Ohio handed down a merit decision in this case.  Read the analysis here.

Read the analysis of the oral argument in this case here.

On March 20, the Supreme Court of Ohio will hear oral argument in the case of State v. Keith Ramey, 2011-0595. The issue in this case is whether the filing of a motion to suppress by one criminal defendant will automatically toll a co-defendant’s speedy trial time.

On October 7, Keith Ramey was arrested and subsequently indicted, along with a co-defendant, Jonathan Keeton, for aggravated robbery, felonious assault and breaking and entering, stemming from a theft at a tattoo parlor in Springfield on October 6. The robbery and assault charges contained a firearm specification. The state opted to try the two defendants together. Keeton was released on bond, but Ramey was incarcerated until the trial.  Thus, by law, since Ramey remained jailed, he had to be tried within ninety days of his arrest, unless that time was extended by tolling.

The right to a speedy trial is guaranteed to a criminal defendant by both the federal and state constitutions, and is codified in Ohio at R.C.2945.71, et seq. Ramey’s speedy trial time was tolled twice.  The first time was October 16, pursuant to R.C. 2945.72, because of the withdrawal of his appointed counsel due to a conflict of interest. The second time was December 10, pursuant to R.C. 2945.72(H), when Ramey’s co-defendant Keeton moved to suppress physical evidence collected by police and Keeton’s post-arrest statements. After the State filed a second indictment for possession of weapons under disability against both defendants, Keeton filed a supplemental motion to suppress evidence related to the photo lineups used to identify him, arguing that they were inherently suggestive. In early January of 2010, the trial court overruled the suppression motion in its entirety, and set a date for Keeton and Ramey’s joint trial on February 1, 2010. On February 1, 2010, Ramey moved to dismiss for violation of his right to speedy trial. The trial court overruled the motion. Ramey was found guilty of four counts and sentenced to 11 years.

The December 10 tolling is at the heart of this appeal. The Second District Court of Appeals found that Ramey’s speedy trial time was tolled by Keeton’s filing of a motion to suppress. Thus, by the time the trial began on February 2, 2010, the court found that Ramey’s right to a speedy trial was not violated. However, the court sustained a speedy trial violation as to the weapon under disability charge, because that charge stemmed from a second indictment that was filed after the two tolling events had occurred.

Ramey appealed pro se to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which initially denied jurisdiction. The Ohio Public Defender’s office then filed an appearance for Ramey and moved for reconsideration. The Supreme Court granted the motion to reconsider based on Ramey’s newly stated proposition of law: “The filing of a motion to suppress by a co-defendant does not, by itself, automatically toll the other co-defendant’s speedy trial time.”

Ramey argues that the charges against him should have been dismissed because he was not tried within the statutorily required time. R.C. 2945.72(H) allows “the period of any reasonable continuance granted other than upon the accused’s own motion,” to toll a defendant’s speedy trial time.  But Ramey argues that tolling provision is inapplicable in this case because it applies only to a motion for a continuance, not to any other motions. He also argues that R.C.2945.72(E), which tolls the time for “any period of delay necessitated by a reason of a…motion… made or instituted by the accused” can only be applied to his co-defendant, who made the motion, but not to him. Ramey argues that the Court of Appeals’ reading of the tolling provision allows a co-defendant to control the speedy-trial time of the other defendant merely by filing motions.

In response, the State argues that the Second District Court of Appeals has consistently held that a co-defendant’s motion will toll the speedy trial time of the other defendant, and other appellate districts have agreed.  The State contends that Ramey’s narrow reading of 2945.72(H) (restricting tolling events to motions for “continuances”) is against legislative intent. The committee notes to the bill suggest that tolling is to be permitted for a number of enumerated reasons, including  “a stay necessitated by preliminary or collateral proceedings.” Based on this language, the State argues that the statute was intended to include all pre-trial motions and proceedings as tolling events. To hold otherwise would be to usurp the courts’ authority to order joinder. Further, the state argues that Ramey would have actually benefitted from Keeton’s motion to suppress, had it been granted, and that Ramey’s failure to file a motion to sever negates his argument that the co-defendant’s motion practice unfairly tolled his speedy trial time.

Finally, the State made an invited error argument that the defense counters was not raised below and should not be considered.

 Student Contributor: Greg Kendall

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