Rep. wants investigation of judge who dismissed child rape case

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COLE COUNTY - One state legislator said he is hoping to prompt an investigation against Cole County Judge Patricia Joyce. Joyce recently dismissed a criminal case involving Aaron Michael Fisher of Miller County, who was accused of sexually assaulting his five-month-old daughter.

Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Lake Ozark, said Joyce's logic was faulty and he questions whether the judgment was competent.

Fisher was first charged with the crime in 2009. In the intervening years, both prosecutors and his public defender made several requests to delay the trial. Fisher pleaded guilty last year, but months later recanted. That's when a new public defender, Jason Emmons, took over and requested the case be dismissed.

Joyce agreed on the grounds that Fisher had not been granted a fair and speedy trial.

Emmons' colleague, Cole County District Defender Justin Carver, said Joyce took on the case on the request of the state supreme court because there hadn't been a trial in five years. He said he finds it offensive that Joyce is receiving criticism, when the actions of prosecutors and Miller County judges contributed to the delays.

"I'm startled, I don't know how long the Miller County prosecutor needed to bring this case to trial. There are significant jurisdiction problems in Miller County. Based on the law, Joyce had to make the decision she made," Carver said, "if this were your son or daughter charged with a serious crime, it's like, how long do they have to sit in jail?"

Carver said, when a case is beyond a year old and the defendant has requested a speedy trial, typically, there needs to be good reason for the continuance.

Carver said, in his 14 years as a lawyer, he has never seen a case that's languished for six years.

He said the long delays could have contributed to Fisher's now-retracted guilty plea.

"The plea was given in 2014, five years after he's been held in jail. Was this a plea that happened because Mr. Fisher was frustrated with the court process?" Carver said. "What happened on this case is a riveting example of coercion, and that's not what the American justice system is about."

Rep. Miller said he plans to file an article of impeachment against Joyce to open a deeper investigation. Once the article is approved by the House, a review of the evidence will be heard by Missouri's Supreme Court.

(Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct a misspelling and for style.)