The 6th Amendment reads:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
In Illinois the right to a speedy trial is also in the state constitution and it was also codified by statute. After all, the word "speedy" can mean a lot of things.
If in custody, the State has 120 days to bring the defendant to trial, as long as the demand for speedy trial has been maintained since the arrest. But, it rarely is. I wrote about this issue last year.
I am not going to re-write my prior post, so if you want to know the mechanics of the speedy trial rule in my jurisdiction please read the first post.
However, by law, if the State does not start trial within 120 days, per the rule, the defendant's case is dismissed by the court.
I am only revisiting this topic because twice this week I have had to say "defendant demands trial." This isn't done too often.
If you read earlier this week, the State answered "not ready" for an attempt murder case that was set for trial Tuesday. After my last trial ended last Thursday, I spent the next four days doing final prep work for Tuesday's trial. I was ready. The State wasn't.
I wasn't completely surprised but I was a little angry. I spent so much time doing mental prep work...you know getting myself psyched up and ready to go. Having the State answer "not ready" was, for me, a total let down.
I imagine it's like being a professional boxer. The big fight is set. Don King promotes it. Pay-per-view is broadcasting it. You get in shape by training for hours and hours. And then you mentally prepare to get the "eye of the Tiger."
All of this to get to the day of the fight and learn your opponent doesn't want to step in the ring with you. Huh? Are you for real? That's close to what it feels like to me.
When this happens, the defense attorney has two options. Continue the case by agreement and pick a new trial date with the State. Or demand trial and let the State pick the new trial date. That's right, if trial is demanded, the State gets to pick when.
What if I already have a trial set for the day the State picks? This actually did happen this week. But, too bad. At least one of them isn't going to proceed. So now I have to reschedule the trial that was scheduled first since it was by agreement and the clients are on bond.
Now I have to go advance the first case and pick a new trial date which won't make that judge or prosecutor happy. The clients aren't happy either. But I demanded on the attempt murder case and my client's in jail. He gets priority right now.
I had a murder case set for March 8. I have been working on that case since last August. It was originally set for trial in February. But the judge had a seminar, thus the March date. Today was supposed to be the last court date prior to trial. Motions in limine were ordered to be filed today. I prepared mine.
I got to court this morning to learn the State won't be ready on March 8. Again? Come on. The felony courtrooms have at least 3 prosecutors. They have secretaries, paid law clerks, investigators, the police department and they can't get ready for trial?
In this case there are 2 defendants. My co-counsel said she was going to demand and I agreed. We demanded trial and I held my breath, hoping the State wasn't going to pick a date when I already have a trial set. And God forbid the same date the State selected on Tuesday.
I ended up lucking out. But this trial demand business stinks from the defense perspective. The State can drag their feet all the way through discovery, not answer ready for trial when I am ready, then pick a date when its best for them even if it's not a good date for me. And not to mention the attitude I get hit with when I say "defendant demands trial."
In all fairness, the prosecutor this morning was pretty cool about it. He actually didn't mind the trial demand. He was a little irritated but not mean like others. I guess he's been having problems getting some last minute work done for him for this case, but now that there's been a demand, I guess he gets priority.
As of right now, my next scheduled trial is March 15. It's an attempt murder with 2 shooting victims. I was in court for that case this morning too. This was the case I came in on at the very last minute. Why do I have a feeling that on March 15, I will once again have to say "defendant demands trial"?