The Speedy Trial Factors: How COVID-19 is Affecting Jury Trials

The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that the criminal defendant is entitled to a speedy trial. Without this right, criminal defendants could be held indefinitely under a cloud of unproven criminal accusations. The right to a speedy trial also is crucial to ensuring that a criminal defendant receives a fair trial. If too much time elapses between the charge and the trial, witnesses may die or leave the area, their memories may fade, and physical evidence may be lost. When our founding fathers came up with this concept, it is safe to say that they did not anticipate a national pandemic such as COVID-19. The battle of judicial economy and the factors of a speedy trial are on a collision course. The four factors that a court will examine when examining if the right to a speedy trial include: The length of the delay; the reason for the delay; the defendant bringing the assertion of the delay, and the defendant’s prejudice. To discuss these factors, we spoke to several of the top criminal defense lawyers in the state of Michigan and gathered their insight.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates, which is known as the top criminal defense firm in Michigan. Grabel spoke of the length of delay when he said, “The jail can only hold a defendant in their facility for 180 days. If we are following this rule by the book, the 180 days can work to the defendant’s favor, but the rule is not always black and white.”

Joe Brugnoli is a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates and is known as the top criminal defense attorney in Kent County, Michigan. Brugnoli spoke of the reason for the delay, which is factor number two. Brugnoli stated, “As a defense counsel, you cannot have adjournments attributed to the defendant and then argue for a speedy trial. It would help if you strategized about this when you have a client charged with a capital case and cannot afford or has been denied a bond. Denial of bond does not mean the case is not winnable. The politics of bond arguments can play a large factor.”

Nancy Eaton-Gordon is a partner at Jackson Eaton-Gordon and Associates in Lenawee County, Michigan, and is an excellent criminal defense attorney. Eaton-Gordon added her insights on factor 3, the defendant bringing the assertion of the speedy trial motion when she stated, “The attorney needs constant attention given to their client. COVID-19 has made jail visits extreme difficult. We need to keep an eye on the clock and make the motion. The defense attorney must make the motion, and they have to be aggressive in doing such.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo is the top criminal defense lawyer in Washtenaw County, Michigan, and has developed a strong reputation across 13 counties in our state. Amadeo spoke of factor four, which is the prejudice to the defendant. Amadeo stated, “The prejudice is clear and presents a burden shift. I had this argument with a prosecutor lately where he stated the burden was not on him. Case law differs when you get to step four. I appreciate his ignorance; it led to a dismissal. The law needs a clear reading, and the motion has to be clear.”

While the right to a speedy trial is an exceptionally vague issue, a crucial factor that we find is that if adjournments are not attributable to the defendant. A motion spells out the burden, and the due process system can lead to your client’s constitutional protection.

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