Speedy Trial - Constitutional

Favorable and Noteworthy Decisions in the Supreme Court and Federal Appellate Courts

United States v. Velazquez, 749 F.3d 161 (3rd Cir. 2014)

After an initial effort to locate the defendant following his indictment, the government’s experts for the next five years amounted to nothing more than running his name through the NCIC database. The defendant was eventually apprehended after he was arrested on an unrelated charge. The Third Circuit held that his constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated and he was entitled have his case dismissed with prejudice. The defendant did have an attorney during this time who was aware of the pending charges, but not that an indictment had been returned. Thus, the defendant was aware that there were pending charges and the record was clear that he did not surrender. Nevertheless, the trial court did not find that the defendant was engaged in evasive conduct, though he lived a “transient” lifestyle. The appellate court reasoned that a defendant has no duty to surrender, even if he is aware that there is an arrest warrant, though if he had engaged in evasive conduct, it would be hard to convince the court that his success at evasion would be rewarded with dismissal of the indictment. In the absence of evasive conduct, as in this case, the mere fact that the defendant is aware that he is “wanted” does not preclude him from winning a Speedy Trial motion. Finally, the court concluded that the defendant did not waive his speedy trial claim simply by virtue of his failure to insist on a speedy trial. Because the right to a speedy trial is not triggered until the indictment is returned and the defendant in this case was not shown to have been aware of the indictment, he could not have insisted on his right to a speedy trial.

United States v. Ferreira, 665 F.3d 701 (6th Cir. 2011)

A three year delay in bringing a defendant to trial violated the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a speedy trial, even though the defendant was in prison on other charges in another jurisdiction. The cause of the delay was bureaucratic bungling of the habeas corpus ad prosequendum process.

United States v. Seltzer, 595 F.3d 1170 (10th Cir. 2010)

The feds waited over nearly two years after the initial return of the federal indictment to prepare the case for trial. In the interim, the defendant was awaiting trial in state court for unrelated charges. The Tenth Circuit held that there was insufficient justification for deferring to the state court and held that the defendant’s right to a speedy trial was violated.

United States v. Battis, 589 F.3d 673 (3rd Cir. 2009)

The federal government indicted the defendant after he was arrested on state charges. Forty-five months elapsed after his federal indictment was returned while the federal prosecutor waited for the state to try the defendant on the state charges. Ultimately the state dismissed the state case. The Third Circuit held that the delay in this case was attributable to the government and prejudice was presumed because of the length of the delay. The court of appeals held that the indictment had to be dismissed.

United States v. Ray, 578 F.3d 184 (2d Cir. 2009)

The defendant appealed her sentence in 1992. The government and defendant agreed that the appellate court should remand the case, following the issuance of an intervening decision that in both parties’ opinion required re-sentencing. Nothing happened for the next fifteen years. When the defendant was finally re-sentenced, the defendant challenged the proceedings as a violation of her right to a Speedy Trial and to Due Process. The Second Circuit held that this did amount to a Due Process violation and that the proper remedy in this case was to suspend the remainder of the sentence. The Second Circuit noted that after remand from the appellate court, it is not the duty of the defendant to bring himself to court and demand a re-sentencing.

United States v. Molina-Solorio, 577 F.3d 300 (5th Cir. 2009)

The defendant was serving a federal sentence and escaped. A federal indictment for escape was obtained by the government. A few years later, he was arrested by state authorities on a cocaine charge and was sentenced to three years and after serving a sentence, was sent to ICE custody and then deported. Five years later he was arrested back in Texas. He was charged with illegal re-entry and shortly thereafter was charged with the escape offense that was initially the subject of an indictment approximately ten years earlier. The Fifth Circuit held that the defendant’s right to speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment was violated. There was no proof that the defendant was actually aware of the indictment, so his failure to “assert his right to a speedy trial” prior to the arrest on the escape charge would not be held against him. The government failed to demonstrate “diligent pursuit” of the defendant during the time between his indictment and the arrest ten years later.

United States v. Erenas-Luna, 560 F.3d 772 (8th Cir. 2009)

The defendant was arrested and deported shortly thereafter. Later, he was indicted. For three years after he was indicted, the defendant was not arrested, or arraigned, even though the police knew that he had returned to the jurisdiction. The Eighth Circuit held that the three year delay was presumptively prejudicial and the lower court erred in failing to presume prejudice. A remand was necessary to permit the government an opportunity to rebut the presumed prejudice.

United States v. Mendoza, 530 F.3d 758 (9th Cir. 2008) (revised opinion)

The government was aware that the defendant had moved to the Philippines. He was indicted. The only effort the government made to alert him to the indictment was to issue a warrant that would have resulted in his arrest when he returned to the country. Ten years later, the defendant returned to the country. Trying him at that point in time violated his right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment. The court concluded that there was a strong presumption of prejudice which the government failed to rebut.

United States v. Ingram, 446 F.3d 1332 (11th Cir. 2006)

Reviewing the Barker v. Wingo factors, the Eleventh Circuit held that the defendant’s prosecution was barred by the Speedy Trial Clause of the Sixth Amendment. The court noted that although pre-accusation delay may not be considered when determining whether a defendant has made the showing necessary to trigger a presumption of prejudice, any delay prior to indictment may be considered when determining whether the defendant was prejudiced by the overall delay. The four-year delay in this case was sufficient to require dismissal.

United States v. Woolfolk, 399 F.3d 590 (4th Cir. 2005)

An eight-month delay between the time of the accusation and the return of the indictment was presumptively prejudicial. A remand was necessary for further fact-finding on the constitutional speedy trial claim.

McNeely v. Blanas, 336 F.3d 822 (9th Cir. 2003)

The defendant filed a habeas corpus challenge to his continued detention in state custody, alleging that his detention for five years without a preliminary hearing or trial violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial. The Ninth Circuit agreed and granted the writ.

United States v. Bergfeld, 280 F.3d 486 (5th Cir. 2002)

A five-year delay between the time the indictment was filed (under seal) and the time the defendant was told about the indictment was presumptively prejudicial. The relative weight of the other Barker v. Wingo / Doggett factors is less important once the delay reaches this length.

Brooks v. Jones, 875 F.2d 30 (2d Cir. 1989)

Following his conviction, there was an eight-year delay prior to the defendant’s appeal. Federal habeas relief was warranted in light of this extraordinary delay.

Simmons v. Beyer, 44 F.3d 1160 (3rd Cir. 1995)

A thirteen-year delay between the defendant’s conviction and his first direct appeal violated his right to due process and a speedy trial. Though the Supreme Court has never recognized a right to a speedy appeal, the Third Circuit holds that the Due Process Clause ensures the right to a speedy appeal, if the state has chosen to give defendants the right to appeal. “The 13-year delay in this case is an outrage, and that Simmons’ appeal as of right ‘slipped through the cracks’ is shameful.” The fact that the cause of the delay was ineffective assistance of counsel by the public defender does not mitigate the damage. The defendant was entitled to a new trial.

Burkett v. Fulcomer, 951 F.2d 1431 (3rd Cir. 1991)

Twenty-nine months after he was convicted, the defendant was sentenced. Nine months had elapsed between his arrest and his trial. There was no justification for the delay, other than crowded court dockets, which weighs against the government. The court discusses at length the type of “prejudice” which a defendant suffers during post-conviction delay and concludes that the defendant did suffer prejudice during the period of delay, including the defendant’s inability to utilize certain rehabilitative services which would have been available after sentencing, as well as the psychological harm suffered by the uncertainty of the incarceration. The remedy provided by the court was to reduce the defendant’s sentence by the amount of time he served in various county jails, awaiting sentencing.

Burkett v. Cunningham, 826 F.2d 1208 (3rd Cir. 1987)

It took five and one half years before sentence was imposed for this defendant. He was incarcerated the entire time. The State attributed the delay to crowded court calendars and the court reporter’s delay in filing the transcript. The defendant was tried and convicted in 1981. In 1986, he was still in jail awaiting the imposition of sentence. The Court holds that the right to speedy trial includes the right to be tried, sentenced and to have appellate resolution of the case.

Howell v. Barker, 904 F.2d 889 (4th Cir. 1990)

Twenty-seven months expired between the issuance of an arrest warrant and its actual service. The Fourth Circuit concludes that this delay prejudiced the defendant and his conviction was vacated. Actual prejudice is not necessary where, as here, there was no justification for the delay between the conclusion of the investigation and the returning of the indictment.

United States v. Graham, 128 F.3d 372 (6th Cir. 1997)

The defendants were indicted in 1987 on RICO charges, but tried in 1995. This violated their constitutional right to a speedy trial and the convictions were reversed.

United States v. Smith, 94 F.3d 204 (6th Cir. 1996)

If the government appeals a sentencing decision, an unreasonable delay in resolving this appeal may give rise to a Sixth Amendment speedy trial violation. For example, if the government prevails, a delay may prejudice the defendant in presenting evidence at a re-sentencing. Also, if the defendant is released prior to the appellate court’s decision, the risk of being re-incarcerated is an important consideration in assessing the prejudice to the defendant from the delay.

Redd v. Sowders, 809 F.2d 1266 (6th Cir. 1987)

The defendant’s lengthy incarceration prior to trial was oppressive and prejudicial. Possible alibi witnesses were no longer available at trial to substantiate the defendant’s alibi claim.

United States v. Pomeroy, 822 F.2d 718 (8th Cir. 1987)

Although an extradition treaty permits Canada to deny surrender of an alleged fugitive to the United States, the government’s failure to request surrender of the fugitive in this case precluded the government from relying on that treaty in defending against a speedy trial violation.

United States v. Shell, 974 F.2d 1035 (9th Cir. 1992)

Though the defense could not identify any specific prejudice, the five-year delay between the time of indictment and the time of defendant’s arrest was presumptively prejudicial under the standard of Doggett v. United States, 505 U.S. 647 (1992).