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Decisions

Conviction Reversed: Defendant Denied his Right to a Speedy Trial

11/2/2014

When a defendant is charged with a felony, the People must be ready for trial within six months. 

Mr. Clarke was arrested in November 2007, arraigned  in December 2007 and indicted in August 2008. The People said they were ready for trial in August 2008, September 2008, and April 2009. 

But, in May 2009, on the eve of trial, the People asked to take oral swab from Mr. Clarke for a DNA test and it was not until November 2009 that the People produced the results.  Mr. Clarke argued that this delay violated his right to a speedy trial.  The People claimed that the time from May 2009 to November 2009 should be excused as an “exceptional circumstance.”  The trial court accepted the People’s argument and Mr. Clarke was subsequently convicted of two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. He was sentenced to a prison term of 21 years to life.

Reversing the trial court’s decision, the Appellate Division held that Mr. Clarke’s right to a speedy trial was denied.  The Court explained that because “the People failed to exercise due diligence in obtaining the DNA sample” from Mr. Clarke, the more than 5 months between the taking of the oral swab in June 2009 and the obtaining of the results in November 2009 was chargeable to the People.  Because these 161 days, with the additional periods of delay correctly conceded by the People, exceeded the six-month period in which they were required to be ready for trial, the Appellate Division reversed the judgment, granted Mr. Clarke’s speedy trial motion, and dismissed the indictment. 

William Kastin briefed and argued the case.