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Law School Case Brief

United States v. Marion - 404 U.S. 307, 92 S. Ct. 455 (1971)

Rule:

U.S. Const. amend. VI provides that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial. On its face, the protection of the amendment is activated only when a criminal prosecution has begun and extends only to those persons who have been "accused" in the course of that prosecution.

Facts:

Defendants were indicted on April 19, 1970, on 19 counts of consumer fraud allegedly committed during the period from March 15, 1964, until February 6, 1967. Although none of the defendants was arrested, charged, or otherwise subjected to formal restraint prior to indictment, their activities were the subject of a Federal Trade Commission order issued February 6, 1967, and a series of newspaper articles in October 1967. Defendants moved to dismiss on the ground that the indictment was returned “an unreasonably oppressive and unjustifiable time after the alleged offenses,” and that the delay deprived them of rights to due process of law and a speedy trial as secured by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. While asserting no specific prejudice, defendants contended that the indictment required memory of many specific acts and conversations occurring several years before and that the delay was due to the prosecutor's negligence or indifference in investigating the case and presenting it to the grand jury. The District Court granted defendants' motion and dismissed the indictment for "lack of speedy prosecution," having found that the defense was "bound to have been seriously prejudiced" by the three-year delay. The Government took a direct appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Issue:

Were the defendants’ constitutional right to a speedy trial violated because of the three-year delay between the commission of the alleged offense and the return of the indictment, thereby warranting the dismissal of indictment?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the judgment of the District Court, holding that the speedy trial provisions did not apply until defendants, in some way, were officially accused, an event that occurred in this case only when defendants were indicted. Because the pre-indictment delay did not extend beyond the period of the applicable statute of limitations, and defendants showed no actual prejudice resulting from the delay, the Court also held that defendants' due process claims were speculative and premature.

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