Boyer v. Louisiana
October 5, 2012
Case #: 11-9935
Court Below: Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit, 56 So.3d 1119 (2011)
Full Text Opinion: http://www.la3circuit.org/NewPDF.aspx?DocumentID=Opinions/2011/02/020211/10-0693opi.pdf
Constitutional Law: Whether a five-year delay due to a state funding crisis for indigent defendants counts against the state for speedy trial purposes.
Petitioner was indicted for first degree murder on June 6, 2002. The charge was reduced to second degree murder on May 21, 2007. On September 29, 2009, Petitioner was convicted of second degree murder and armed robbery with a firearm. The State of Louisiana blamed the seven-year delay in prosecuting Petitioner on a "lack of funding." Petitioner was incarcerated the entire time. During the two years between reduction of the charge to second degree murder in May 2007, and conviction in September 2009, Petitioner filed more than thirty motions—including two motions to recuse the trial judge and several evidentiary motions which required testimony from witnesses—and the State filed one unopposed continuance motion. Neither Petitioner nor the State made these motions or requests as delaying tactics.
Petitioner appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit, claiming the seven-year delay in prosecuting his case violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial. The Court of Appeal analyzed Petitioner’s case under the four factors laid out by the United States Supreme Court in Barker v. Wingo—length of delay, reason for the delay, the defendant's assertion of his right, and resulting prejudice to the defendant—and found that while the length of delay was presumptively prejudicial, Petitioner’s constitutional speedy trial rights were not violated because the indigent defense funding failures were outside the State’s control.
The Court of Appeal denied Petitioner’s request for rehearing and the Louisiana Supreme Court denied Petitioner’s application for writ of certiorari. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari limited to the question: “Whether a state's failure to fund counsel for an indigent defendant for five years, particularly where failure was the direct result of the prosecution's choice to seek the death penalty, should be weighed against the state for speedy trial purposes?”