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Habeas petitioner’s speedy trial claim stopped cold

Chester O’Quinn v. Tom Spiller, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Case No. 14-1836, 11/25/15

The state appellate court reasonably applied Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972), the controlling Supreme Court precedent for Sixth Amendment speedy‐trial claims, when it rejected O’Quinn’s claim that the 42-month delay in holding his trial violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial.

The 42-month delay is presumptively prejudicial and thus triggered the full-blown Barker analysis, and O’Quinn asserted his speedy-trial right, so two of the four factors figure in O’Quinn’s favor. (Slip op. at 5, 6). But the state court’s reasonably concluded that the second factor—the reasons for the delay—weighs against O’Quinn, not the state, because due to the actions of his trial lawyer, he was properly held responsible for most of the delay:

…. [O’Quinn’s] argument overlooks the basic principle that the actions and decisions of defense counsel are attributable to the defendant, see [Vermont v.] Brillon, 556 U.S. [81,] 92 [(2009)], and in O’Quinn’s case almost all of the delay resulted from continuances requested by his own lawyer. O’Quinn apparently disagreed with his attorney’s continuance requests, but that doesn’t transfer the responsibility for the delay to the State. Unless the State is responsible for the delay in bringing the defendant to trial, there can be no speedy‐ trial violation. Id. at 93–94.

(Slip op. at 5-6).

While it’s true the state court mistakenly attributed the entire period of delay to the defense and thus overstated O’Quinn’s responsibility for the delay, “this mistake of fact cannot support habeas relief unless O’Quinn can show that the state court’s decision was based on it. See § 2254(d)(2) (stating that relief should not be granted unless the proceedings “resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding”) (emphasis added); …” In this case, “[b]ecause the continuances requested by O’Quinn’s lawyer accounted for almost all of the pretrial delay—about 90% of the total—it cannot reasonably be argued that this modest factual mistake had any meaningful effect on the state court’s decision.” (Slip op. at 6).

The final factor is prejudice to the defendant, and this doesn’t weigh in O’Quinn’s favor, either:

…. Although the length of delay both establishes and intensifies the presumption of prejudice, “the presumed prejudice flowing from a long delay is ‘insufficient to carry a speedy trial claim absent a strong showing on the other Barker factors.’” Ashburn v. Korte, 761 F.3d 741, 753 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting United States v. Oriedo, 498 F.3d 593, 600 (7th Cir. 2007)). A strong showing of prejudice does not appear in this record. As important, the vast majority of the pretrial delay was properly attributed to O’Quinn.

(Slip op. at 7-8).

O’Quinn’s habeas petition raised 10 other claims, but the district court granted a certificate of appealability only on the speedy-trial issue. (Slip op. at 3).

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