On October 7, 2009, Keith Ramey and Jonathan Keeton were arrested and indicted for aggravated robbery, felonious assault, and breaking and entering. The state opted to try the two defendants together. After their arrest, Keeton was released on bond, but Ramey remained jailed until the trial.
At a pretrial conference, lawyers for both defendants told the trial court they would be filing pretrial motions. The next day Keeton filed a motion to suppress physical evidence, but Ramey did not file any pretrial motions. The trial court heard and overruled Keeton’s motions on January 5, 2010, and issued a scheduling order the next day, which stated that both lawyers had indicated their availability for trial beginning on February 1. The trial was continued one extra day because the courtroom was unavailable on February 1.
On February 1, Ramey moved to dismiss the indictments for failure to try him within time. Because he was jailed, the law requires that he be tried within ninety days. The court denied the motion on the ground that the matter had been continued by agreement of the parties. Ramey was convicted of aggravated robbery and felonious assault and sentenced to an aggregate sentence of eleven years in prison. The Second District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s overruling of Ramey’s dismissal motion on these charges on the grounds that Ramey’s speedy trial time was tolled by Keeton’s filing of a motion to suppress.
A defendant charged with a felony shall be brought to trial within two hundred seventy days after the person’s arrest.
For the purposes of calculating speedy-trial time, each day during which the accused is held in jail in lieu of bail on the pending charge shall be counted as three days. Thus, a jailed defendant must be tried within 90 days.
The time within which an accused must be brought to trial, may be extended only by the following:
(H) The period of any continuance granted on the accused’s own motion, and the period of any reasonable continuance granted other than upon the accused’s own motion.
When defense counsel merely acquiesces in a trial date but does not affirmatively move for a continuance, the continuance is entered “other than upon the accused’s own motion” and, under the second clause of R.C. 2945.72(H), must be reasonable.
In State v. Ramey, 2012-Ohio-2904, a unanimous decision written by Chief Justice O’Connor, the Court held that the filing of a motion to suppress by one criminal defendant does not automatically toll a co-defendant’s speedy trial time. The Court also refused to find that the actions of Ramey’s counsel at pretrial conference and counsel’s failure to object to the trial date constitute an implied waiver of the right to a speedy trial.
But the Supreme Court also found that the second part of R.C.2945.72(H) was implicated in Ramey’s case—which allows for a continuance other than on the accused’s own motion, as long as it is reasonable. The Court held that the trial court had discretion to extend the trial date beyond the statutory time limit, if the continuance was reasonable, as required by the second clause of subsection (H).
The case was sent back to the court of appeals to determine, based solely on the existing record, (not on after the fact justifications) whether the continuance beyond the statutory time period was reasonable under R.C. 2945.72(H).
What Happened on Remand
On remand, Ramey asserted a single assignment of error, that the trial court’s record demonstrates that there was no reasonable need to delay trying Ramey within the statutory speedy trial time, and therefore the delay was not reasonable. In determining whether the delay was reasonable, the court examined the court’s journal entries prior to the expiration of the time limit.
On December 28th, 2012, the appeals court unanimously concluded that the record did not demonstrate that the trial court’s decision to set Ramey’s trial date beyond the statutory time period was reasonable. The record showed neither an agreement by defense counsel nor an agreement between the parties to extend the trial date beyond the statutory time limit. In strictly construing the application of the continuance statute here at issue against the state, the court held that mere acquiesce by defense counsel to the continuance beyond the statutory time limit was not enough to establish that the trial court acted in a reasonable manner by ordering the continuance. Thus, the court found that Ramey’s statutory right to a speedy trial was violated, and his convictions for aggravated robbery and felonious assault were reversed and vacated.
Student Contributor: Michael Elliott