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Delay in trial leads to dismissal of attempted homicide case

This blog has written many times about criminal defendants who apparently face a seemingly insuperable burden in proving their innocence. We have suggested that a consultation with a criminal defense attorney may nevertheless be helpful in finding a successful defense strategy. A recent decision in an attempted murder case in Lackawanna County shows how such an outcome can be achieved.

The defendant was charged with firing four shots at two persons in their home in Scranton on March 15, 2009, wounding both and necessitating their hospitalization. The next day, the defendant was arrested by police in Blair County for allegedly firing 21 rounds into the house of his former girlfriend. Police found two AK-47 assault rifles, 500 rounds of ammunition and a vest containing six pipe bombs when they arrested him. The ammunition found by police matched the ballistics tests on bullets fired in both instances.

Concerns about the defendant's mental health delayed his trial for the Scranton shooting. Meanwhile, he pled guilty to the Blair County shooting on April 12, 2013 and was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment. Both the United States constitution and Pennsylvania law mandate that every defendant is entitled to a speedy trial. In this case, the speedy trial period of one year began to run when the defendant was sentenced by the judge in Blair County - April 12, 2013. For unexplained reasons, the Lackawanna case was labeled inactive even though the defendant's attorney told prosecutors that he was competent to stand trial. The defendant's lawyer then filed a motion asking the court in Lackawanna County to dismiss that case for failure of the prosecution to meet the one-year deadline. The judge granted the motion, finding that the prosecution spent three years of "inactivity, neglect and failure" instead of acting promptly to bring the case to trial.

This case demonstrates how a vigilant defense attorney can protect a client's right to a speedy trial and use that right to obtain dismissal of criminal charges that appear to have been supported by overwhelming evidence.

Source: Scranton Times-Tribune, "'Dropped Ball': Attempted homicide case dismissed for speedy trial violation," Joseph Kohut, April 1, 2016

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