Saturday, April 04, 2009

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

Charles A. O'Hara won in State v. Pickerill, Case No. 100,189 (April 3, 2009)(unpublished), affirming Judge Chambers' dismissal of charges with prejudice and the denial of the state’s motion to continue the preliminary hearing.

At the preliminary hearing, the state requested a continuance or, in the alternative, a bifurcated hearing because the assigned prosecutor had been called out of state for family medical reasons, and the State's primary witness was training out of state and was not present to testify. Mr. Pickerill's counsel objected to the state's motion and moved for dismissal based upon surprise, that Mr. Pickerill and his parents drove from New Mexico at their own expense for the hearing, and that Mr. Pickerill was on oxygen and in poor health. Judge Chambers denied the state's motion for a continuance or bifurcated hearing and dismissed the case with prejudice.

The COA affirmed the district court noting the “long and arduous case history.” The COA cited the lack of diligence in compelling the detective’s testimony, the fact that the case had been in the system four years, Mr. Pickerill's failing health (who was on oxygen in the courtroom), and the fact that Mr. Pickerill and his family had driven from New Mexico for the hearing. Based on these facts, the COA held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the state’s motion to continue and dismissing the charges with prejudice.

[Update: the state did not file a PR and the mandate issued on May 7, 2009].

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