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United States v. Tigano - 880 F.3d 602 (2d Cir. 2018)

Rule:

In the context of a speedy trial action, different weights should be assigned to different reasons, in which deliberate attempts to delay trial weighed most heavily against the government, valid reasons for delay such as missing witnesses are taken off the scale entirely, and reasons of negligence or overcrowded dockets are weighted somewhere in the middle because the ultimate responsibility for such circumstances must rest with the government rather than with the defendant. This factor must take into account the affirmative duty of the district court and the government to monitor the progress of a criminal case toward disposition and to take steps to avoid unnecessary delay where possible. Affirmative action by the government in bringing cases to trial is mandated, and it cannot escape this duty on the ground that the delay is for institutional reasons.

Facts:

On July 8, 2008, Joseph Tigano, III and his father were arrested on charges related to a marijuana growing enterprise allegedly operated by the two men. When Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) task force members executed a search warrant at the Tiganos' residence on the morning of the arrest, they discovered over 1,400 marijuana plants. On October 2, 2008, Tigano and his father were each indicted on six counts. Four of the counts charged drug offenses related to the alleged marijuana growing operation; the remaining two counts charged weapons offenses stemming from firearms found at the residence. Nearly five years later, Tigano's father pled guilty to one count of manufacturing 50 or more marijuana plants. Tigano refused to accept a plea and proceeded to trial—nearly seven years after his arrest. He was convicted by a jury on May 8, 2015 on five of the six counts in the indictment. Tigano was imprisoned during the entirety of the nearly seven years of pretrial proceedings. On appeal, Tigano argues that his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial was violated by an oppressive period of pretrial incarceration. On November 15, 2017, the appellate filed an Order that reversed the judgment of the district court and dismissed with prejudice the underlying indictment. The appellate court remanded the case for the limited purpose of releasing Tigano from detention and indicated that an opinion would follow. Tigano was released pursuant to that Order on November 15, 2017.

Issue:

Was Tigano’s Sixth Amendment right to speedy trial violated?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

Nearly seven years of pretrial detention in this case, as well as Tigano's single-minded focus on obtaining a speedy trial, presented extreme facts in the speedy trial context. The appellate court held that under the facts represented "a ceiling, rather than a floor" for Sixth Amendment analysis. The court further stated that years of subtle neglects resulted in a flagrant violation of Tigano's Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial and opined that Tigano's years of imprisonment represent a failure of the courts to comply with their obligation to bring defendants to "a speedy and public trial."

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