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State v. Mayes

Supreme Court of Montana

November 29, 2016

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
JACK DEAN MAYES, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: September 7, 2016

         District Court of the Second Judicial District, In and For the County of Butte/Silver Bow, Cause No. DC 14-146 Honorable Brad Newman, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Wendy Lee Holton, Attorney at Law, Helena, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Eileen Joyce, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana


          Laurie McKinnon, Justice

         ¶1 Article II, Section 24, of the Montana Constitution, grants individuals accused of crimes the right to a speedy trial. At issue here is whether the right to a speedy trial is violated when, among other things, an accused is deprived of access to rehabilitation programs he would otherwise attend but for his unduly lengthy incarceration in county jail. After conducting a balancing of the applicable factors, the District Court found no violation. We reverse.[1]


         ¶2 Jack Dean Mayes (Mayes) has an extensive criminal record, including primarily drug offenses and other offenses likely related to drugs. Thus, Mayes was already on parole for a prior felony drug conviction when his parole officer arrested him, searched his home in Butte, and found a syringe containing liquid in a jacket pocket that field tested positive for methamphetamine. On August 7, 2014, the State arrested Mayes and charged him with felony criminal possession of the syringe in violation of § 45-9-102, MCA. Mayes made his initial appearance in Justice Court the next day, where his bond was set at $5, 500.

         ¶3 The State filed an information on August 15, 2014. Mayes pleaded not guilty on August 28, 2014, and an omnibus hearing was held on September 18, 2014. At the omnibus hearing, the District Court set trial for February 9, 2015, 186 days after his arrest. At the time of Mayes' arrest, the State Crime Lab had a substantial backlog of cases and notified the State that any analysis would require between seven and nine months to complete. On August 11, 2014, four days after Mayes was arrested, the Sheriff's Office received notification from the State Crime Lab that the contents of the syringe had to be placed into a vial for purposes of analysis. Despite having received such notification, the State waited until November 17, 2014, or 102 days after Mayes' arrest, to submit the substance for testing. There is no dispute that the State controlled the syringe and its contents during this 102 day period. During the hearing on the motion to dismiss, the State conceded that "there's 100 days there that the substance sat in the sheriff's department and didn't get transferred." Ultimately, the State could not explain why submission of the sample languished for nearly three and one-half months.

         ¶4 Since it appeared the lab would not complete its analysis in time for trial, the State filed a motion on January 20, 2015, to continue the February 9, 2015 trial date. Mayes objected, arguing that the continuance would leave him incarcerated for an excessive amount of time and place the trial date beyond the threshold period of 200 days established in Ariegwe.[2] The District Court granted the continuance and reset Mayes' trial for May 19, 2015, which was 285 days after his arrest. On April 2, 2015, Mayes filed a motion to dismiss for speedy trial violations. The State responded and the District Court entertained argument on the motion, ultimately issuing an order denying the motion on May 12, 2015. On May 13, 2015, Mayes pleaded guilty, but reserved the right to appeal the denial of his speedy trial motion. Thereafter, he received a five-year sentence to run concurrently with the sentence for which he was on parole. Mayes remained incarcerated in county jail from the time of his arrest on August 7, 2014, until he entered his guilty plea on May 13, 2015, a total of 279 days.

         ¶5 In its order denying Mayes' speedy trial motion, the District Court analyzed each Ariegwe factor. The court first acknowledged that the delay was beyond the 200 day threshold that would trigger a speedy trial analysis. In addressing the reasons for the delay, the District Court found the delay between Mayes' arrest and his trial date was attributable to the State for purposes of balancing, but with a lesser degree of culpability. As for the specific delay arising from the State's late submission of the sample to the lab, a delay of approximately 100 days, the court rejected Mayes' argument that this delay was a tactical decision by the State to secure "better evidence." Instead, the court found the delay was institutional, akin to negligence or a lack of diligence, which is the middle tier of the culpability scale in an Ariegwe analysis. The District Court recognized that Mayes had timely asserted his interest in a speedy trial by objecting to the State's motion to continue trial, and then by motion on April 2, 2015. With respect to whether the delay caused Mayes prejudice, the court found that Mayes was incarcerated after December 11, 2014 as a result of his parole violation and not because of the new drug charges. Therefore, the court found no prejudice attributable to delay in the case pending before it for the new charges. The court also concluded Mayes had failed to provide sufficient evidence that: (1) the delay caused him aggravated anxiety or concern beyond what any person accused of a crime would face; (2) that Mayes had missed opportunities to participate in DOC treatment and rehabilitation programs; and (3) that Mayes's defense had otherwise been compromised because of the delay.


         ¶6 We review a district court's findings of fact underlying a speedy trial claim for clear error. A court's findings of fact are clearly erroneous when they are not supported by substantial credible evidence, if the court misapprehended the effect of the evidence, or if a review of the record leaves this Court with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made. Whether there has been a constitutional violation of the right to speedy trial is reviewed de novo to determine whether the lower court's interpretation and application of the law are correct. Ariegwe, ¶ 119.


         ¶7 An accused's right to a speedy trial is guaranteed by United States Constitution Amendments Six and Fourteen, and by Article II, Section 24, of the Montana Constitution. A reviewing court must analyze a potential speedy trial violation by balancing four factors: (1) the length of the delay; (2) the reasons for the delay; (3) whether the accused asserted his right to a speedy trial; and (4) whether prejudice to the accused resulted from the delay. Ariegwe, ¶ 20. When balancing the four factors, no single factor is dispositive and each is to be considered under the totality of relevant circumstances. Ariegwe, ¶ 112. The speedy trial clock commences once the accused is arrested, a complaint is filed, or an indictment or information is filed. Ariegwe, ¶ 42. A reviewing court must first address the length of delay as a threshold matter to determine if a speedy trial claim merits analysis. Ariegwe, ¶ 38. A minimum 200 days must elapse between the speedy trial clock's commencement and the date of trial before a speedy trial claim merits consideration. Ariegwe, ¶ 41.

         Factor One: The Length of the Delay

         ¶8 We consider the extent to which the delay stretches beyond the 200 day trigger date because a presumption of prejudice intensifies as the delay exceeds the trigger date: the greater the excess over the trigger date, the more likely the accused suffered prejudice. Ariegwe, ¶ 49. Here, Mayes was arrested on August 7, 2014 and pleaded guilty on May 13, 2015, a total of 279 days. This period exceeds the 200 day threshold by 79 days and, as the delay extends, it establishes an intensifying presumption of prejudice in Mayes' favor. This factor favors Mayes' motion to dismiss. Factor Two: The Reason for the Delay

         ¶9 A court reviewing a speedy trial claim does not consider in its analysis any action by either the State or the accused which does not postpone the trial date. Ariegwe, ¶ 63. The reviewing court must consider the cause and motive, or reason, behind the particular delay. Ariegwe, ¶ 67. Deliberate delays designed to undermine the defense are heavily weighed, while negligent or institutional delays are weighed less heavily. Ariegwe, ¶ 68. Institutional delays are those inherent in the criminal justice system, and beyond control of prosecutors. Ariegwe, ¶ 68. Negligence is equated with a lack of diligence in bringing the accused to trial. Ariegwe, ¶ 69.

         ¶10 We have previously recognized that where the State knows the State Crime Lab is significantly backlogged, the failure to inquire about independent lab analysis or other options constitutes a lack of diligence, even when the backlog is due to circumstances beyond the control of the prosecutor. State v. Velasquez, 2016 MT 216, ¶¶ 19-20, 384 Mont. 447, 377 P.3d 1235. In Velasquez, an accused facing felony drug charges was incarcerated in Roosevelt County Jail the entire 309 days he awaited trial. Weeks before his first trial date, the State moved for a continuance because the lab analysis of the evidence had not been completed. As here, the State Crime Lab had informed the State that evidentiary samples were backlogged by an estimated nine months. The District Court granted the continuance despite Velasquez' objection that he would be denied his right to a speedy trial. The District Court granted two more continuances to allow for completion of lab results. In denying Velasquez' speedy trial motion, the District Court categorized the delay as institutional, and not attributable to negligence or lack of diligence on the part of the State. Velasquez, ¶¶ 1-5. We reversed, concluding that the failure of the State to pursue possible alternatives to testing at the State Crime Lab, coupled with the State's awareness that the lab was backlogged by nine months, constituted a lack of diligence which weighed more heavily against the State and tipped the prejudicial scale in favor of the defendant in the Ariegwe analysis. Velasquez, ¶¶ 51-53.

         ¶11 As in Velasquez, the District Court here mischaracterized the prosecution's inaction in submitting the sample as part of "the ordinary time required to initiate and prosecute a felony criminal action." The delay in Velasquez-309 days-and the delay here-279 days-both resulted from the State's failure to obtain a lab analysis necessary to prosecute a simple drug possession charge. The focus in both Velasquez and here is the State's failure to take affirmative measures to move its case to trial and not the conduct of the lab. Furthermore, here, the delay by the State of 102 days in submitting the sample weighs more heavily against the State than in Velasquez because the State was in control of the sample and the timetable for its submission to the lab. Although the delay remains unexplained, we decline to adopt Mayes' position, on this record, that the State's actions amounted to a deliberate bad faith effort to prejudice the defense. However, we cannot characterize the delay as merely a lack of diligence by the State when, all other considerations aside, failing to submit the sample constituted over one-half of the time necessary to trigger a speedy trial inquiry. Indeed, as the United States Supreme Court has cautioned, the speedy trial factors that make up our Ariegwe test "have no talismanic qualities." Ariegwe, ¶ 101 (citing Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 92 S.Ct. 2182, 2193 (1972)). We therefore weigh the reason for the delay heavily against the State, but refrain from concluding that there was a deliberate bad faith delay by the State. It is the State's burden to bring the accused to trial and a defendant has no burden to ensure the State's diligent prosecution of ...

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