Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Looks like one for the negative column

Attorney General Troy King's long list of ethics concerns, political stunts, and general negatives is, of course, well-known among careful followers of Alabama politics. But today's negative press goes not to the man who chose to wear an electronic ankle bracelet while testifying before Congress but to the opponent he beat in the fall, Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson, Jr.

Tyson's office encountered a major setback Monday, when a circuit judge ruled she had to toss out a triple murder case because prosecutors violated the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. The judge said the state waited too long -- more than 11 years -- to proceed with the prosecution and that the delay unfairly prejudiced the defendant. The assistant district attorney said the delay was necessary because the defendant was in federal prison during that time, but the judge said the state still could have sought to go ahead with the prosecution.

The law in the speedy-trial realm, as in so many other areas, is nebulous. The king of jurisprudence there is the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Barker v. Wingo, which noted four key factors in finding a breach of defendants' speedy-trial rights: the length of the delay, the reason for it, the degree to which defendants assert their rights before trial, and the harm that defendants suffer. But the clarity ends there; the justices said judges must weigh those factors on an individualized basis in each case to determine whether a Sixth Amendment violation exists.

So Tyson's office could look to a higher court, but the 11-year-plus wait will remain a glaring detriment to that cause. Even if an appeal were to succeed, the situation is a black eye for a DA who has what largely appears to be a solid record of accomplishment.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps Tyson could have tried this case instead of campaigning for Attorney General. Oh but wait, that would have involved doing the job he had been elected to and was being paid to do.

11:21 PM  

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