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Shameless marketing, and more speedy trial stuff

KittensOne of the other things I can do with the new site is use pictures.  Which allows me to introduce the new additions to the Bensing family.  That's Isabel on the right, and William's the little charmer on the left.  This continues the mildly unfortunate modern trend of giving pets human names.  We know a couple who have cats called Alexander and Victoria.  Their kids are named Rags and Muffin.

I know, you're thinking, "Is there any length to which you will not go in an attempt to market your site?  Using kittens?  And how did you get them to sit in that briefcase?"  Easy:  used a whip.

The Supreme Court last week, in State v. Sanchez, decided another case on speedy trial rights under RC 2945.71, this time holding that the filing of a motion in limine tolls the time.  This is in line with the court's 2002 ruling in State v. Brown that the filing of a motion for bill of particulars or a request for discovery by the defense similarly tolls the time.  All of these cases are amply supported by precedent:  the clear majority of appellate districts had ruled that motions in limine tolled the time, and so had the clear majority of appellate districts with respect to motions for bills of particular and requests for discovery.

I don't think this is good law from a legal, logical, or practical standpoint.  Let's start with this language from Sanchez:  after quoting the statute's provision that the time is extended only by

"(E) Any period of delay necessitated by reason of a plea in bar or abatement, motion, proceeding, or action made or instituted by the accused." (Emphasis in Sanchez)

the court concluded,

The statute does not require a showing that a motion caused delay before the running of speedy-trial time may be suspended.

I'm sorry, but that doesn't make sense.  If the time is extended only by the period of delay necessitated (and notice that the Court didn't emphasize that word) by the defendant's motion, how can you conclude that it's not necessary to show that the defendant's motion caused a delay?  Put another way, how can the time be tolled if the motion didn't necessitate a delay, when that's the showing required by the statute?  What Sanchez and Brown essentially do is rework the statute so that the word "necessitate" is written out of it:  those decisions basically mean that any motion filed by the accused tolls the time, whether or not it "necessitates" a delay.

This doesn't make any sense from a practical standpoint, either.  The court in both cases claimed that the mere filing of such motions placed a strain on prosecutors; as the court stated in Brown, "discovery requests by a defendant divert the attention of prosecutors from preparing their case for trial, thus necessitating delay."  I doubt if there's a shred of empirical evidence to support this.  Moreover, as the 11th District noted in State v. Palmer,

The state is presumed to have all of its facts and its witnesses prepared and ready to go prior to seeking its indictments, as they choose the time and place to proceed. It is unfathomable that they do not have their discovery and do not have the information readily available in their file to formulate a bill of particulars. If the time, the date, and the offense information are not available to them, they should not seek an indictment or charge a defendant until they are prepared.

Of course, Sanchez and Brown are the law, and that's not going to change.  That doesn't mean there aren't loopholes, though.  Even Sanchez notes that the decision there "does not imply that the state may prolong its response time or that a trial court has unbridled discretion in taking time to rule on a defense motion."  There are cases holding that if the delay in the prosecutor's response is unreasonable, the state doesn't get the benefit of tolling.  Palmer is one of them; there, the state took 79 days to file its bill of particulars, every day of which the defendant was sitting in jail, and the court said there was no reason for that.

Still, it's tough to win on a speedy trial motion:  last year in Ohio, according to the Supreme Court's statistics, out of the 123,000 felony cases pending at some point in time, only 94 were dismissed for speedy trial violations.  Brown and Sanchez make it even tougher, and that comes at the expense of doing what the speedy trial statute was intended to do:  ensure an expeditious resolution to criminal cases.  Under the Supreme Court guidelines for courts and judges, felony cases are supposed to be disposed of in six months.  Since 1999, the percentage of cases exceeding that figure has increased by one-third.  Wonder why?

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