Signature waived right to jury trial, COA affirms

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A Clay County defendant waived her Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial when she signed a form acknowledging the deadline to demand a jury, then missed that deadline, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in an opinion upholding the denial of the defendant’s untimely jury trial demand.

In May 2016, Tarsha Cheesman’s employer, Page’s IGA grocery store in Brazil, agreed to give her a $50 cash advance from her next paycheck. However, surveillance footage later shows Cheesman stealing the $50 that had been set aside from her paycheck, and she never repaid the debt.

The state charged Cheesman with Class A misdemeanor theft, and at her initial hearing Cheesman signed an acknowledgement of rights that provided, among other things, that she must file a written demand for a jury trial within 10 days of her first scheduled trial date. Trial was initially set for Sept. 28, 2016, but was moved to Jan. 18 after a series of continuances. Cheesman moved for a jury trial on Jan. 6, but the Clay Circuit Court denied the motion as untimely.An additional series of continuances moved the trial to July 2017, when Cheesman was found guilty as charged.

She appealed in Tarsha Cheesman v. State of Indiana, 11A01-1708-CR-1939, arguing the trial court violated her rights by denying her request for a jury trial, but the Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed.

Judge Margret Robb initially in the Thursday opinion wrote that Cheesman’s jury demand was due by Sept. 19, 2016, but was not filed until almost four months later on Jan. 6. Further, Cheesman signed the form informing her of the deadline for demanding a jury trial, meaning she was advised her jury trial right, Robb said.

“To the extent Cheesman now argues that she never ‘expressly’ waived her Sixth Amendment trial by jury right, her argument leaves us unconvinced,” Robb wrote. “Although Cheesman explains the meaning of ‘express’ as ‘clearly and unmistakably stated,’ she fails to apply the standard to the facts presented here by explaining how exactly her actions were constitutionally inadequate, or what exactly is necessary to expressly waive her Sixth Amendment trial by jury right.”

“Moreover, we note that the specific language from (Patton v. United States, 281 U.S. 276, 299 (1930)) states that waiver requires the ‘express and intelligent consent of the defendant,’” Robb continued. “We view Cheesman’s signature on the Acknowledgement of Rights form and her subsequent failure to file a demand for a jury trial as reflecting her express and intelligent consent — especially considering that she now offers no argument to the contrary.”

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