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United States v. Marion

Supreme Court of the United States

November 8, 1971, Argued ; December 20, 1971, Decided

No. 70-19


 [*308]  [***472]  [**457]    MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

This appeal requires us to decide whether dismissal of a federal indictment was constitutionally required by reason of a period of three years between the occurrence [****4]  of the alleged criminal acts and the filing of the indictment.

On April 21, 1970, the two appellees were indicted and charged in 19 counts with operating a business known as Allied Enterprises, Inc., which was engaged in the business of selling and installing home improvements such as intercom sets, fire control devices, and burglary detection systems. Allegedly, the business was fraudulently  [*309]  conducted and involved misrepresentations, alterations of documents, and deliberate nonperformance of contracts. The period covered by the indictment was March 15, 1965, to February 6, 1967; the earliest specific act alleged occurred on September 3, 1965, the latest on January 19, 1966.

On May 5, 1970, appellees filed a motion to dismiss the indictment "for failure to commence prosecution of the alleged offenses charged therein within such time as to afford [them their] rights to due process of law and to a speedy trial under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States." No evidence was submitted, but from the motion itself and the arguments of counsel at the hearing on the motion, it appears that Allied Enterprises had been subject to a Federal Trade [****5]  Commission cease-and-desist order on February 6, 1967, and that a series of articles appeared in the Washington Post in October 1967, reporting the results of that newspaper's investigation of practices employed by home improvement firms such as Allied. The articles also contained purported statements of the then United States Attorney for the District of Columbia describing his office's investigation of these firms and predicting that indictments would soon be forthcoming. Although the statements attributed to the  [**458]  United States Attorney did not mention Allied specifically, that company was mentioned in the course of the newspaper stories. In the summer of 1968, at the request of the United States Attorney's office, Allied delivered certain of its records to that office, and in an interview there appellee Marion discussed his conduct as an officer of Allied Enterprises. The grand jury that indicted appellees was not impaneled until September 1969, appellees were not informed of the grand jury's concern with them until March 1970, and the indictment was finally handed down in April.

 [*310]  Appellees moved to dismiss because the indictment was returned "an unreasonably [****6]  oppressive and unjustifiable time after the alleged offenses." They argued that the indictment required memory of many specific acts and conversations occurring several years before, and they contended that the delay was due to the negligence or indifference of the United States Attorney in investigating the case and presenting  [***473]  it to a grand jury. No specific prejudice was claimed or demonstrated. The District Court judge dismissed the indictment for "lack of speedy prosecution" at the conclusion of the hearing and remarked that since the Government must have become aware of the relevant facts in 1967, the defense of the case "is bound to have been seriously prejudiced by the delay of at least some three years in bringing the prosecution that should have been brought in 1967, or at the very latest early 1968." 1

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404 U.S. 307 *; 92 S. Ct. 455 **; 30 L. Ed. 2d 468 ***; 1971 U.S. LEXIS 4 ****



Disposition: Reversed.


indictment, arrest, speedy trial right, delays, speedy trial provision, speedy trial, criminal prosecution, pre-indictment, actual prejudice, accusation, impair, statute of limitations, district court, protections, rights, speedy, grand jury, limitations, memories, charges

Criminal Law & Procedure, Appeals, Right to Appeal, Government, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Speedy Trial, Preliminary Proceedings, Speedy Trial, Constitutional Right, General Overview, Trials, Defendant's Rights, Right to Public Trial, Dismissal, Grounds for Dismissal, Delay in Filing, Accusatory Instruments, Indictments, Pretrial Motions & Procedures, Dismissal, Standards of Review, Plain Error, Defenses, Statute of Limitations, Governments, Legislation, Statute of Limitations