September 1981: On Writ of Certiorari to the United States
Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Brief for Respondent
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I have translated them and they can be found following page 17
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the accused; that, after completing its lengthy reinvestigation, the government took an additional period of more than two years before deciding to proceed with the case; "at least the last two years of delay" was inexcusable and irresponsible; and that the government's conduct, in addition to imposing severe burdens during the pretrial period, prejudiced the defense at the trial proper. That ruling is protective of interests long recognized by this Court as lying at the core of the speedy trial guarantee: "to minimize anxiety and concern accompanying public accusation" and "to limit the possibilities that long delay will impair the ability of an accused to defend himself." United States v. Ewell, 363 U.S. 116, 120 (1966) It is also fully consistent with United States v. Marion, 404 U.S. 307 (1971). Marion's holding that delay proceeding a public accusation is challengeable only under the due process clause does not warrant a conclusion that the prosecution can avoid the demands of the Sixth Amendment, even though it has made a public accusation, by the expedient of dismissing a charge and reinstating it at leisure.
The ruling below in no way inhibits the government's pursuit of legitimate prosecutorial objectives. This is evidenced by the court's care in excluding from consideration all of the time consumed by the government's lengthy reinvestigation. To hold, however, that the government, having set a prosecution in train, is excused from all requirements of due diligence if it interrupts the formal proceedings, would ignore the protected interest of the affected individual. It would also deserve society's interest in the prompt administration of justice. Indeed, it would invite widespread abuse if the government were allowed "to circumvent the speedy trial requirement by successively dismissing and reinstating a complaint or indictment for the same offense." United States v. Avalos, 541 F.2d 1100, 1108-1109, n.13 (5th Cir.1976). This view,
reflected in the opinion below, is widely supported by decisions of other federal courts and of numerous state tribunals.
Although the court below found it unnecessary, in light of its Sixth Amendment ruling, to decide whether the prejudice caused by the government was also sufficient to make out a violation of due process, its findings and the supporting record show that Dr. MacDonald was in fact denied the elements of a fair trial.
The Government's case rested entirely on hypothetical reconstruction of the crime. Yet, as the court found, there was "almost certain memory erosion" on the part of the government's investigators. This "rendered it virtually impossible" for the defense to probe their recollections and to test the premises and assumptions upon the defense's ability to develop its affirmative case. Dr. MacDonald's defense was that the crime was committed by four intruders and that he was the sole survivor of a murderous assault upon his family. His description of the female intruder was sufficient to lead a local police officer to Helena Stoeckley. Stoeckley promptly acknowledged a connection to the crime. Thereafter, she made admissions placing herself on the scene, or otherwise implicating herself, to six other persons (acquaintances, friends and law officers). Numerous facts and circumstances provided corroboration of her admission. At the trial, however, Stoeckley denied recollection of events