- Associated Press - Monday, April 17, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa judge has dismissed the case against a man convicted of a dragging death, citing a court clerk’s error and failures by other officials.

Judge Robert Blink also ordered that inmate Michael Moss be released from prison. Moss was convicted in 2009 of killing Des Moines resident Nick Harris over a $200 drug debt and sent to prison for life.

In 2015, Moss won a new trial, arguing that his trial lawyer had been ineffective, according to The Des Moines Register (https://dmreg.co/2ptB7yv ). The state appealed, but the district court’s decision was upheld by the Iowa Appeals Court. That court issued an order last November for a new trial and sent the order to the state prosecutors handling the appeal and to the Polk County District Court. The order was not sent to Polk County prosecutors or to the district judge who handled the case. The state prosecutors, however, did notify Polk County prosecutors.

On March 2 - 121 days after a new trial was ordered - Moss filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that a new trial had not begun within 90 days. Iowa law requires that a new trial begin within 90 days unless the defendant waives his or her right to a speedy trial or a prosecutor can show good reason for any delay.

Prosecutors argued that a court clerk had made the error by failing to set a trial date. The Polk County clerk of court testified that the office had changed procedures, which resulted in the error.

But Judge Blink said the county attorney’s office also failed in its duty to follow up on its notice from state prosecutors that a new trial had been ordered.

Blink said in his April 3 order dismissing the case that “clerical errors do not justify good cause for failure to provide speedy trial rights” and that prosecutors “failed to exercise due diligence in this case.” The remedy, Iowa appellate courts have ruled, is dismissal of the case.

Polk County Attorney John Sarcone declined to discuss the case on Monday.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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