Thursday, August 10, 2006

Right to speedy trial from beginning to end

Thanks to Paige Nichols, who pointed out this interesting 10th Circuit case, U.S. v. Yehling, involving a constitutional speedy trial issue. Here is her succinct summary:

Defendant is convicted, gets 18 months, and files a motion for new trial. Court stays sentence and grants OR bond while motion for new trial is pending. Court sits on motion for new trial. Defendant, in the meantime, works, gets married, buys a house. FOUR YEARS LATER, court finally denies motion and defendant has to go serve his sentence. Total bummer man!!! Tenth Circuit affirms denial of motion and rejects "speedy trial"-type claim based on the delay. I wonder whether there was a better claim to make?
We have seen claims sort of like this in state court and I was interested to see the court freely acknowledge that the "Sixth Amendment guarantees all criminal defendants the right to a speedy trial; we have applied this right from arrest through sentencing. Perez v. Sullivan, 793 F.2d 249, 253 (10th Cir. 1986)." We have had success on a Due Process-type analysis with delay to probation revocation. Nathan Webb just won State v. Bennett, where the COA held that a two year delay in prosecuting a probation violation, the state waives the violation and the district court loses jurisdiction. Another area where these issues come up is delay in sentencing. Often may be easier to show prejudice, for example, if the client has picked up additional criminal history during some unreasonable delay. But we have not had much luck getting the COA to see such delay as much of a problem unless we can show the delay was a "tactical ploy," which is pretty difficult. See State v. Prater. But this Tenth Circuit case shows that there is a real basis for a regular Barker v. Wingo analysis of such claims.

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