GOSHEN — A hearing this week may determine whether three and a half months are shaved off the six-year sentence given to an Elkhart man who was convicted in the death of a former Goshen city councilman.
Cody Garman, 24, was convicted in the May 2017 death of 66-year-old David Swartley, who died after he was found in a locked car in a wooded area in south Elkhart. The jury found Garman guilty of involuntary manslaughter, a Level 5 felony that describes an unintentional death caused by battery, as a lesser included offense under the original charge of murder.
Garman received a six-year sentence in April 2018, during a court hearing where Swartley’s relatives shared how disappointed they were with the outcome of the trial. In addition to giving him the maximum sentence possible for the low-level felony, Circuit Court Judge Michael Christofeno granted Garman 328 days of credit time for the months he spent in jail awaiting trial.
But the judge refused to grant him good-time credit, which would have given him one extra day for every three days in jail. Christofeno cited an attempt by Garman to tamper with the jury before the trial began by asking a woman to share with them certain information about Swartley.
Authorities had a recording of Garman’s phone conversation with the woman, and he admitted in court to doing it.
“There is no way on God’s green earth I am giving you good-time credit for that behavior,” Christofeno told him.
Garman appealed the denial of good-time credit to the Indiana Court of Appeals, arguing that he wasn’t granted a hearing or other procedural safeguards first. The appellate judges agreed with him in a March 15 ruling and ordered that he receive another hearing, which Christofeno set for June 27.
Garman also appealed his sentence, saying it was inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and his character, but the appellate court upheld his punishment.
According to the ruling by the appeals court, after Garman’s trial began on March 19, he contacted a friend and asked her to tell jurors outside of court that she knew someone whom Swartley had allegedly raped. He also asked her to get his grandmother to make the same allegation.
The court addressed the allegation of jury tampering while Garman was testifying on the last day of the trial. After sending the jury out of the courtroom, Garman was questioned about three posts by Swartley that Craigslist handed over to authorities and which he learned of during the discovery process.
His attorney described the posts as containing “horrific requests.” Garman testified that he wanted the jury to “know the truth” about Swartley.
Christofeno ruled that the posts still could be not admitted into evidence during the trial. No evidence was ever found that either of the women contacted any of the jurors.
The appellate judges noted that before someone can be deprived of good time credit, Indiana law requires a hearing to determine guilt or innocence, with advance notice and time to prepare their defense. Prosecutors argued that the exchange in court met the standards for due process.
But the judges concluded that Garman wasn’t given the chance to fully address his behavior and to be heard on whether restriction of his good time credit was an appropriate response to his attempted jury tampering. They observed that Garman’s testimony on his attempted jury tampering was limited because he wasn’t allowed to testify about the excluded evidence in front of the jury, and he wasn’t given the opportunity to address the deprivation of his good time credit at his sentencing hearing.