The Speedy Trial Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 3161–3174, requires that a trial start “within seventy days from the filing date (and making public) of the information or indictment. § 3161(c)(1). This deadline is not absolute, however, because certain periods of delay “shall be excluded . . . in computing the time within which the trial . . . must commence.” 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h). The most common form of “excludable” delay results from the filing and disposition of pretrial motions. 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(1)(D). When a violation is found, the court may dismiss the indictment with or without prejudice, depending on three factors (1) seriousness of the offense; (2) reason for the delay; and (3) administration of justice. 18 U.S.C. § 3162(a)(2). The Court found that the offense here was serious, that the delay was largely due to the repeated delays and chaotic nature of the litigation (which it blamed on the 8 defendants, finding that any government contribution was relatively innocent and harmless), and it found no prejudice to Stevenson from the delay (the fact that a case gets stronger over time – including by coD pleas – is not prejudice, for purposes of the statute). The district court did not err in looking at the number of excludable days in the context of factor (2).
The Court also addressed what it called a “close case” of sufficiency of the indictment on fraud in relation to identification documents. The Court found an implied reference to interstate commerce in the indictment’s description of interstate activity. But it found that any failure would have been harmless (and applied harmless error review here, because Supreme Court guidance in analogous circumstances – citing Neder on jury instructions – suggests defective indictments do not constitute “structural” error).
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