Man faces felony in OWI accident dating to 2012

GREENFIELD — A judge won’t dismiss the 5-year-old drunken driving charge a Greenfield man faces, instead slating his case for trial in January, records show.

Martin Smith, 48, 3303 U.S. 40 West, Greenfield, tried in October to convince a judge that his constitutional rights were violated when prosecutors misplaced his case file in 2012 and filed a felony count against him in 2017 after relocating it.

Smith — who faces a single Class C felony count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury stemming from an accident in August 2012 crash in which a woman fractured her spine — asked Hancock Superior Court 1 Judge Terry Snow to dismiss the case, arguing he wouldn’t get a fair trial after so many years had passed.

But Snow denied Smith’s motion and has scheduled the case to go before a jury Jan. 8, according to court records.

In October, Snow heard arguments on whether to toss out the state’s case against Smith.

Smith’s attorney, Russell Cate of Carmel, said that delay is unwarranted and subsequently damaged Smith’s chance of mounting a good defense. But Deputy Prosecutor John Keiffner, who is handling the case for the state, said misplacing the case file was simply a mistake and a jury should have the chance to weigh the evidence.

Snow took the matter under advisement after the hearing in October; his ruling was announced last week.

Investigators say Smith ran a stop sign while driving south on County Road 300W in August 2012, colliding with a passenger car that was headed eastbound on State Road 234, according to police reports.

Two people in the car were injured but recovered, officials said.

The sheriff’s deputy who investigated the crash said he handed all the evidence he had to the Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office in September 2012 — during former elected prosecutor Michael Griffin’s administration — and asked that Smith be charged criminally for causing the accident, according to testimony. A chemical test had found his blood-alcohol content was at least three times the legal limit of .08 percent at the time of the crash, the deputy said, according to court documents.

The Class C felony count Smith now faces wasn’t filed until March 2017 — weeks before the statute of limitations on the case was set to expire, records show.

Former prosecutors testified they weren’t sure why the charges weren’t filed against Smith immediately. A staffer in current-Prosecutor Brent Eaton’s office discovered the case file while doing some cleaning late last year, officials said.

In the years that passed, a blood sample taken from Smith the day of the crash was destroyed by the Indiana Department of Toxicology; witness’s memories have faded, and Smith’s right to a fair trial was violated, Smith’s attorney, Russell Cate of Carmel, said during the hearing.

Keiffner — and ultimately Snow — disagreed, saying there was no malice in the decision prosecutors made.

The Class C felony count Smith faces carries a maximum penalty of eight years in prison.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.