Friday, July 01, 2011

"Dear SCOTUS: Please reverse my Court."

In yesterday's dissent from the MSSC's op in Johnson v. State, Justice Dickinson essentially invites the U.S. Supreme Court to rectify Mississippi's wayward speedy-trial jurisprudence:
It is no secret that, for the past twenty years, the Sixth-Amendment right to a speedy trial has been under attack and on life support. Although this Court’s previous decisions have suggested that--given the right set of facts--a speedy trial claim could possibly be won,
today’s final, fatal blow mercifully puts the criminal-defense bar out of its misery. Whereas previous decisions have been less than clear, today’s plurality opinion is as subtle as a stick of dynamite--the Sixth-Amendment right to a speedy trial in Mississippi is dead. * * *

In 1972, the United States Supreme Court handed down Barker v. Wingo, which
established four factors (the Barker factors, discussed later) state courts must consider when analyzing Sixth-Amendment speedy-trial issues. In the forty years since Barker, this Court has applied the Barker factors to speedy-trial issues in ninety- eight cases--forty before 1992, and fifty-eight since.

Of those first forty cases, all decided prior to 1992, this Court found speedy-trial
violations approximately one-fourth of the time. But in the fifty-eight cases decided since 1992, this Court has not found a single violation. Fifty-eight cases in a row over the past nineteen years--and all decided in favor of the State. * * *

The only conclusion one can fairly draw from reviewing the three-to-one cases
decided since 1992 is that, in reality, defendants cannot win speedy-trial claims before this Court unless they win all four factors. And given this Court’s history, even if a defendant could do all that, there’s still no reason to believe the defendant would actually prevail.

In analyzing the prejudice factor, the plurality’s main concern seems to be who had
the burden of proof. Yet the plurality seems to be untroubled by the fact that, when the defendant, Johnson, attempted to take the witness stand and testify concerning prejudice, the trial judge prohibited him from doing so.
Dickinson's op is spicy enough that Chief Justice Waller, although agreeing with the conclusion, joins it only to that extent. The Court's plurality opinion is penned by the new incarnation of Justice Easley, Justice Randy Pierce.

Let's hope that Johnson and his counsel have the resources, or can find them, to petition for cert -- Dickinson's practically drafted it for them.

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