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Massachusetts Appeals Court Holds That 12 and One Half Year Delay From Time Of Issuance Of Complaint Until Trial Violates Speedy Trial Law

Today the Massachusetts Appeals Court issued its decision in Commonwealth v. Gore, 08-P-2067, a case in which the defendant claimed that he was denied his right to a speedy trial. The facts of the case are as follows:

In October of 1995 a complaint issued in the New Bedford District Court charging Gore with Indecent Assault and Battery on a Child Under the Age of 14, two counts. In November of 1995 a warrant issued for Gore’s arrest. He was not notified of the outstanding charges. Two years later he picked up a case on Rhode Island. Gore was convicted of the cases in Rhode Island and given a prison sentence. He became eligible for parole in November of 2006. Rhode Island was at all times aware of the New Bedford case, a fugitive complaint was filed and Gore never waived extradition. In 1999 the fugitive complaints was dismissed. In December of 2006 the prosecutor in New Bedford applied for a governor’s warrant. In January of 2007 the defendant was ordered extradited to Massachusetts. Gore was arraigned in New Bedford in February of 2007. A motion to dismiss was filed and denied in March of 2008. Gore set out as grounds a violation of his speedy trial rights under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Trial started in the spring of 2008. About twelve and one half years had passed since the complaint issued. Gore was tried convicted and sentenced to in the 1995 cases. He appealed.

Citing a United States Supreme Court case the Appeals Court evaluated four factors in determining whether Gore’s speedy trial rights were violated. Those factors contemplate 1) the length of the delay, 2) the reason for the delay, 3) the defendant’s assertion of his right to a speedy trial and 4) the prejudice to the defendant. See Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 530 (1972). Finding the delay here unreasonable the Massachusetts Appeals Court held that Gore’s decision not to waive extradition does not mean that he waived his right to a speedy trial. A defendant has no duty to bring himself to trial. Additionally, the prosecution could have obtained a governor’s warrant earlier than 2007. A twelve and one half year delay is presumptively prejudicial at least in the context of this case. In this decision the Massachusetts Appeals Court also embraced Article XI of the Massachusetts Declaration or Rights which states that everyone in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has the right to a speedy trial. In addition to federal law state law was violated by the inaction of the district attorney’s office.


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