Monday, May 20, 2019
Sixth Amendment Speedy Trial Right not Triggered by Inmate’s Placement in Administrative Segregation for Investigation of New Crime
In United States v. James Bailey-Snyder, No. 18-1601 (3d Cir., May 3, 2019), Defendant, an inmate at FCI Schuylkill, was under investigation for weapon possession at the prison. During a search, prison guards discovered a seven-inch shank on Defendant’s person. While the FBI investigated the matter, prison officials placed Defendant in the Special Housing Unit (“SHU”). Defendant was indicted ten months later for one count of possession of a prohibited object in prison. After several requests for filing extensions, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the indictment based on violation of his constitutional and statutory speedy trial rights. Specifically, Defendant argued that the ten-month period between his placement in the SHU and the filing of the indictment was an unreasonable pre-indictment delay. The district court denied Defendant’s motion, ruling that placement in the SHU is not an arrest or accusation that would trigger the Speedy Trial clock. The Third Circuit agreed. In a matter of first impression, the Third Circuit ruled that an individual’s speedy trial rights under both the Sixth Amendment and 18 U.S.C. § 3161 do not attach to the period prior to arrest. The court determined that placement in the SHU was not an arrest, but was instead an administrative segregation administered under the policies and procedures of the BOP. As a result, Defendant’s proper recourse was submit an administrative challenge to the BOP.
Defendant also accused the government’s attorney of improper vouching. During closing arguments, the prosecutor attempted to rebut defense counsel’s challenge to the credibility of the two prison guards who had searched Defendant. Specifically, the prosecutor stated that it was conjecture for defense counsel to claim that the prison guards would risk their livelihoods to frame Defendant. Defense counsel objected to the statement, arguing that the prosecutor was attempting to argue facts that were not in evidence. The trial court overruled defense counsel’s objection. Citing United States v. Weatherly, 525 F.3d 265 (3d Cir. 2008), the Third Circuit ruled that the prosecutor’s statement was not improper vouching, but was merely a commonsense conclusion which did not require explicit supporting evidence on the record. The Third Circuit also noted that even if the prosecutor’s statement was deemed improper vouching, it was nonetheless excusable because it was a reasonable response to defense counsel’s allegation of perjury.
The Third Circuit ultimately ruled that there was no cumulative error and affirmed Defendant’s conviction and sentence.
Court of Appeals joins eight other Circuit Courts in finding legal innocence to be a valid basis for motion to withdraw guilty plea. But in doing so, affirms denial of motion because there was no credible evidence presented of innocence. Assertions alone are insufficient.
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