WA Legal Roundup - Washington State Supreme Court
Not often you get weighty issues of Con Law that you actually need to think about in this business. Iniguez was tried 8 months after he was incarcerated. He brought one continuance, the rest were either the State or a co-defendant, to which he objected.
So, where's the greater protection? State or Federal. Surprisingly, this hasn't come up before. Under a Gunwall analysis, the state and federal constitutions have almost identical language (weighing in favor of affording them the same rights). The history behind the WA Const. is likewise bare, with no history cited from anyone. The fourth factor, whether there were any preexisting state laws, did not weigh in factor of greater protection.
Here's where I'd like to digress and rail on the court (no offense to the Justices, you know I think you're all great people). I can definitely see the point that the laws prior to our constitution didn't necessarily afford a greater protection than federal. However, the court gives no weight to the speedy trial procedures currently in place, stating, "a violation of the rules is not necessarily a constitutional deprivation." That may be true. But the existence of a more stringent set of rules seems to evince a sense that the WA constitution, while not providing a "yard-stick" in the 60 day rule, definitely provides some greater protection. The subtext being...no, we won't say 60 days is solid, but don't stray too far from it.
Given that portion of the Gunwall analysis, the court found no greater protection under Washington law.
The court then, as my friend Lauren says, wraps its ass around the tree (a saying for, essentially, having its reasoning all knotted). Supposedly you have to find a length of time as presumptively a violation before you can even trigger the Barker analysis as to whether your speedy trial rights are violated. But presumptive has to be looked at as to each case. Regardless, the court found there was a presumptive prejudice to the delay:
Applying all of the relevant factors to Iniguez's case, we agree with the Court of Appeals that the pretrial delay here was presumptively prejudicial. First, the length of delay was substantial and Iniguez spent all of it in custody. Second, Iniguez was not facing complex charges involving multiple actors, such as with conspiracy charges, which might necessitate greater pretrial delay. Rather, Iniguez and his codefendant were accused of first degree robbery. Lastly, the State's case rested in large part on eyewitness testimony from multiple people, underscoring the importance of avoiding delays that could result in witnesses becoming unavailable or their memories fading. In light of all these circumstances, the over eight-month delay was presumptively prejudicial.
So then, if prejudicial, then look for the Constitutional delay using the Barker balancing test:
Even though we agree that the pretrial delay here was presumptively prejudicial, it is just beyond the bare minimum needed to trigger the Barker inquiry under these circumstances. While Iniguez spent the entire pretrial period in incarceration, eight-plus months is not necessarily an undue delay. As such, this factor weighs only slightly against the State.
Go back and read that again. Its saying because it was only a "little" beyond when the Supreme Court thinks a delay is always presumptively prejudicial, that it doesn't weigh but a teensy weensy in favor of finding a Constitutional violation. Eight months isn't an undue delay?
It gets weirder, they look to the reasons for the delay and note the state simply wanted to try the cases together, and the other co-defendant requested some of them too. Only Iniguez didn't want to be tried together. Shouldn't this weigh in favor of Iniguez? Yes, there is a policy favoring joint trials, but should judicial economy ever trump over speedy trial rights?
The part that weirds me out:
Factor 1: Weighs slightly in favor of the Defendant
Factor 2: Should not weigh against the state (which I disagree with), but, is not said to weigh against Defendant. Thus, a tie.
Factor 3: Weighs in favor of the Defendant (very much so even)
Factor 4: Prejudice to the Defendant, which is already presumed, but which the court said "what else ya got?" and did not say where it weighed (so I'll presume neither here nor there)
Now if you add that up...that's 2 in favor of the Defendant, two even keel. On a scale, that would tilt towards the Defendant. The sum, according to the court?
On balance, the totality of the circumstances here does not support finding a speedy trial violation of constitutional magnitude to justify the extreme remedy of dismissal of the charges with prejudice. As a result, we hold that there was no state or federal constitutional speedy trial violation. The trial court had good reasons for granting each of the continuances Iniguez challenged and acted within the constitutional limits in balancing the competing interests of trying the codefendants jointly, accommodating trial preparation and scheduling concerns, and securing the defendant's constitutional rights.
I CALL SHENANIGANS!
Coincidentally, so does Justice Chambers (with 3 others signed on):
The majority finds that the nearly nine month delay in bringing Ricardo Iniguez to trial was presumptively prejudicial and that three out of four of the Barker factors weigh against the State. Yet despite this and without much more the majority announces the seemingly contradictory holding that the "totality of the circumstances" does not support a finding that Iniguez's right to a speedy trial was violated. While I agree with the majority's conclusion that constitutional speedy trial analysis necessarily requires a fact-specific inquiry, given the facts of this case and the number of factors weighing against the State, I would hold that Iniguez was denied his right to a speedy trial and affirm the Court of Appeals. I respectfully dissent.