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SJC Affirms Denial of Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss on Speedy Trial Grounds

calendar-1568148-300x199In Commonweath v. Dirico, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial under Mass. R. Crim. 36(b) was properly denied.

The background was as follows. “The defendant contend[ed] that the Commonwealth was responsible for the delay in providing him with the results of [DNA] evidence testing, and that none of the time after he filed a motion for mandatory discovery should be considered excludable delay.”

In its decision, the SJC “conclude[d] that the discovery the defendant characterized as ‘mandatory’ was not mandatory discovery that the Commonwealth must automatically provide to a defendant under Mass. R. Crim. P. 14(a)(1).” “[T]he defendant … did not seek ‘reports of … scientific tests’; instead, he sought all of the electronic data used to prepare the reports, all of the electronic files related to the case …, and the laboratory’s standard operating manual. The disclosure of these items of discovery might prove beneficial to an expert who is retained to analyze a DNA report and may properly be ordered to be disclosed, but the Commonwealth is not automatically required under rule 14(a)(1) to disclose these items in the course of mandatory discovery unless they are exculpatory.” The Court further “conclude[d] that, even if [the items sought by the defendant] did constitute mandatory discovery, a defendant who does not want the speedy trial clock to be tolled where a scheduled event [such as a final pretrial conference] is continued because of the Commonwealth’s delay in providing mandatory discovery must, under rule 14(a)(1)(C), move to compel the production of that discovery or move for sanctions, which the defendant [in this case] failed to do…. Here, the defendant acquiesced in, benefited from, and was partially responsible for the vast majority of the delay between the filing of his motion for mandatory discovery and the filing of his motion to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial: the defendant retained an expert to evaluate the results of the Commonwealth’s DNA testing, the defendant did not object to the Commonwealth’s delay in providing the additional information regarding that testing ordered by the judge to be produced, and a trial date could not reasonably be assigned until the expert had obtained and evaluated that additional information.”

Also in this decision, the SJC “conclude[d] that a criminal defendant who moves for dismissal for lack of a speedy trial, claiming violation of his or her rights to a speedy trial under rule 36 and the United States and Massachusetts Constitutions, is entitled to review of such constitutional claims even where his or her rule 36 claim is denied. A constitutional analysis of a speedy trial claim [under the Sixth Amendment and art. 11 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights] is separate and distinct from a rule 36 analysis, and is triggered when a defendant alleges ‘that the interval between accusation and trial has crossed the threshold dividing ordinary from “presumptively prejudicial” delay.’ Commonwealthv. Butler, 464 Mass. 706, 709-710 (2013)…. Having conducted that constitutional analysis” by “apply[ing] the four-factor test articulated in Barkerv. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 530-531 (1972),” the Court held “that the defendant’s constitutional rights to a speedy trial were not violated.” The Court noted “that the speedy trial clock for a constitutional analysis does not begin at the time of arraignment,” the starting point under rule 36. “[U]nder the Sixth Amendment, [the clock] begins to run at the time of indictment” and “[u]nder art. 11, it begins to run upon the issuance of a criminal complaint.”

Making sure that a defendant’s rights are preserved– whether it be in relation to discovery issues, speedy trial issues, or trial issues – is one of the most important functions a defense attorney can provide.  Attorney Daniel Cappetta is an extremely experienced attorney who zealously represents all of his clients, makes sure that their rights are preserved, and makes sure that the record reflects that fact.  Call him for a free consultation today.

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