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The Tragic Demise Of A Right To A Speedy Trial

The Speedy Trial Act, as amended in 1979, is complex and has loop holes in it that the government ship could pass through.

The Tragic Demise Of A Right To A Speedy Trial



by Loren Edward Pearce

It is this writer’s opinion that the framers did not define, numerically, what speedy meant nor what excessive bail meant, because they knew that, for the constitutional republic to succeed, it depended on a moral people who sought to serve and protect rather than to subjugate and abuse.

A judge, who presided over a trial, was expected to have a moral compass that guided him/her in defining “speedy” in the best interests of the accused. Like a loving teacher or parent, the desire for the quickest but also fairest trial possible would be as natural as the sun rising in the morning, and no need for a numerical definition, because it would be the shortest time that was within human power to grant.

Under the utopia envisioned by the founders, the new republic would be governed by a people who had only the best interests of their neighbor at heart, and the need for a Law of Moses type minutia, with thousands of rules and regulations, would be replaced by a Christian “Two Great Commandments” of loving God, fellowman and self, replacing the need for rigid rules, quotas and numbers.

It is important to note that the moral compass was applicable to all people, with the majority of citizens expected to behave in such a way that the need for criminal trials would be minimal, keeping the courts free from congestion and backlogs.


The Bill of Rights was written only for the sake of the accused, not for the sake of the accuser. This one-sided, seemingly unbalanced approach to rights was intentionally set forth this way as a reminder to a government of how limited they were supposed to be. The Bill of Rights was written for one reason, and one reason only, to establish an impenetrable barrier between government and non-government citizen. The best interests of the public or the compelling interests of the state were left out on purpose, because the state, through government actors, had to be restrained given the historical tendency to move from the role of a righteous and humble public servant to that of a controlling and Machiavellian type leader obsessed with personal gain.

The Bill of Rights assumes that the accuser, which is the state in all criminal matters, has so many resources at its disposal, that it does not need any assistance in order to even the playing field. However, in fulfillment of the founder’s fears, the government has grown into an entity of monstrous proportions and has taken many liberties with the Bill of Rights by giving more power to the accuser, at the expense of the accused, as we shall see with the issue of a Speedy Trial.


The word “Speedy” has a slang quality about it, as in Speedy Gonzalez, but the word goes back to at least the 13th century. Derived from the word “speed”, which originally meant to prosper, to advance, to acquire wealth and to have success and to do so as quickly as possible. The saying, “God’s speed” was not a request for a turbo charger so your car could go faster, it was a blessing of prosperity, not in the indefinite future, but now, quickly and without delay. For centuries, judges and prosecutors sought “God’s speed” according to the culture of the time, and they knew that a “Speedy trial” was not speedy if it did not have behind it, a desire for God’s speed.

With that backdrop, it may be assumed that the Sixth Amendment authors, acting on their desire to bless their fellowman, were entrusting public servants with a lot of discretion, discretion based on a moral compass.


In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

The Sixth Amendment was put in place “(1) to prevent oppressive pretrial incarceration[,] (2) to minimize anxiety and concern of the accused[,] and (3) to limit the possibility that defense will be impaired.” Hills, 618 F.3d at 631–32.

When the framers of the constitution wrote the Sixth Amendment, they did so within the context of ancient English law. In reaction to the abuse by kings, royalty and the nobles (the elite), political opponents were punished with pretrial prison, often indefinitely. This led to the the Magna Carta provision in 1215:

To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.”

Over 400 years later, in 1642, Sir Edward Coke concluded that English judges were required to give a prisoner “full and speedy justice” to avoid the evil of lengthy pretrial detention.


The idea that “justice delayed is justice denied” is ancient. Over the course of the last 9 centuries, since the concept of a speedy trial was first codified, the definition remained intentionally vague because of the assumption that the benefit of the doubt would be given to the accused in effecting a trial as quickly and as thoroughly as possible, until the ends of justice were fairly met.

Like a ship leaving its mooring at a dock, the dock representing the Constitution, the ship representing the state or government, has drifted away from its role and purpose, i.e., the best interests of the individual citizen. The ship, once a small boat with a small crew, has grown to a Titanic, and beyond, with a crew, a military and instruments of force far exceeding the wildest imagination of the founders. With those tools of force, the government feels free to modify and to manipulate the bedrock principles, that worked so well for the first few centuries, for its own self serving purposes at the expense of the individual citizen.

The government often uses the phrase, “the public interest balanced against individual interests” as if the two were inherently contradictory. “Public interest” really is the code word for government interest. The government has become an exclusive club and like the ship leaving the constitution harbor, is self contained with rules for boarding the ship.

Government employees have their own unique world of pay, benefits and privileges, including that they are exempt from Social Security. All this leads to a great dichotomy of non-government individuals versus the government’s interests. These competing interests are what we are seeing in the Bundy et al controversy, with government club members protecting each other against the uppity private citizens. These competing interests lead to the passage of laws that eviscerate the Bill of Rights, a document exclusively created for individual citizens.


In 1972, over 700 years after the Magna Carta, the United States Supreme Court grappled with the problem of defining speedy trial in Barker v. Wingo, and developed a four part test to determine if an accused’s constitutional right to a speedy trial had been violated.

  • the length of delay
  • the reason for the delay
  • the time and manner in which the defendant has asserted his right
  • the degree of prejudice to the defendant which the delay has caused

See U.S. CONST. amend. VI; Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 529–30 (1972) (stating that the right to a speedy trial is a fundamental right).

In 1974, congress decided to give speedy trial rights more teeth by passing the Speedy Trial Act. The intentions by the good ship government in passing the Speedy Trial Act, seemed to be based on a desire to move back closer to port (the constitution). The author of the legislation, Rep. Mikva, originally called it the Pretrial Crime Reduction Act and said that it, “is an approach to the problems of crime by defendants released prior to trial which does not rely on jailing criminal defendants before they are found guilty. It provides to the judge alternative methods to insure supervision and control of dangerous defendants, it provides pretrial services agencies with adequate resources to make those pretrial controls effective, and it insures that defendants are brought to trial quickly enough that the pretrial controls need be used only for a minimum time.”

Ammon Bundy, and other defendants, have been incarcerated for over 480 days as of May 20, 2017

Notice that the original legislative intent was the reduction of pretrial detention because the due process matters at trial would move quickly and fairly, reducing the amount of time a defendant had to commit a crime if released pending trial. But, Mikva is also acknowledging the devastating harm to defendants and to the presumption of innocence occasioned by courts detaining prisoners prior to trial because the courts can’t move fast enough. Fast forwarding today, we see that Rep. Mikva would be disappointed in the results, as the number of prisons and pretrial prisoners have grown exponentially, with many accused never going to trial but opt for a plea deal instead.

The Speedy Trial Act, as amended in 1979, is complex and has loop holes in it that the government ship could pass through. Trial must commence within 70 days from the date the information or indictment was filed, or from the date the defendant appears before an officer of the court in which the charge is pending, whichever is later. Additionally, Congress added a provision allowing a minimum of 30 days for trial preparation, unless waived by the defendant, so as to not be so speedy as to deny adequate trial preparation time.

If trial ends in a mistrial, or the court grants a motion for a new trial, the second trial must begin within 70 days “from the date the action occasioning the retrial becomes final.”  18 U.S.C. § 3161(e).

The Act, when first passed in 1974, provided for tough standards of dismissal with prejudice (meaning the case could not be taken up again). When amended in 1979, Congress made it much easier to get around these standards for dismissal and left it to the discretion of the court to decide if it was to be with prejudice or without prejudice (meaning the issues could be tried again).


You may be scratching your head and wondering how could the 70 day time limit, plus the 30 days trial preparation time for a total of 100 days, have anything to do with the Bundy et al defendants given that the majority of them have been in prison for over 480 days as of May 20, 2017.

Enter the “ends of justice” exclusions of the Speedy Trial Act, or as I like to call them, the “end” of justice. Congress recognized that the obstacles to a speedy trial included many factors that could be excluded from the time limits and spelled out what some of those “ends of justice” exclusions were, while at the same time giving wide discretion to the courts to decide what can be excluded from the time limits. These exclusions and exceptions to the time limits in the Act, are the loopholes that a ship could go through. As one legal expert commented, “ the right to a speedy trial may be more myth than reality” in how the Act is applied in many federal circuit courts of appeal.


The following periods of delay shall be excluded in

computing the time within which an information or an

indictment must be filed, or in computing the time within

which the trial of any such offense must commence:

(1) any period of delay resulting from other proceedings

concerning the defendant, including but not limited to

(A) delay resulting from any proceeding . . . to determine

the mental competency or physical capacity of the defendant;

(B) delay resulting from trial with respect to other

charges against the defendant;

(C) delay resulting from any interlocutory appeal;

The Speedy Trial Act of 1974: Effects on Delays in Federal Criminal Litigation

(D) delay resulting from any pretrial motion, from the filing of the motion through the conclusion of the hearing on, or other prompt disposition of, such motion;

(E) delay resulting from any proceeding relating to the transfer of a case or the removal of any defendant from another district . . .;

(F) delay resulting from transportation of any defendant . . .;

(G) delay resulting from consideration by the court of a proposed plea agreement . . .; and

(H) delay reasonably attributable to any period, not to exceed thirty days, during which any proceeding concerning the defendant is actually under advisement by the court.

In addition, a period of delay to allow the defendant to demonstrate his good conduct and a “period of delay resulting from the absence or unavailability of the defendant or an essential witness” are excluded. Furthermore, delay because a continuance is granted by a judge on his own motion or at the request of the defendant or government is also excluded.

If, after all these exceptions and exclusions are considered, the court finds that there was a violation of the Speedy Trial Act, courts have significant discretion when deciding if a violation occurred and whether to dismiss with or without prejudice. United States v. Fountain, 840 F.2d 509, 512 (7th Cir. 1988).


The government crew, watching out for one another, has led to the federal circuit courts ruling that only dismissal without prejudice should be granted despite the fact that there were lengthy delays and laziness on the part of the prosecution. See, e.g., Sykes, 614 F.3d at 305–06; Hills, 618 F.3d at 631–32; Killingsworth, 507 F.3d at 1087; Arango, 879 F.2d at 1501; Fountain, 840 F.2d at 509.

In Hills, the federal team ruled that delays could be justified based on:

[W]hether failure to grant a continuance would result in a miscarriage of justice, whether the case is so complex that adequate trial preparation is impossible under the Speedy Trial Act’s time limits, and whether the failure to continue would deny the defendant reasonable time to obtain counsel, or would deny counsel the time necessary for effective preparation.”


While this writer does not have the advantage of knowing all the details in the Bundy et al case, it is well known that the prosecution has leveraged the exclusion to a speedy trial based on complexity of the case. The problem with complexity as a reason, is that the prosecution can be the creator of the complexity, against the will of the defendants.

The Hills case is distinguishable from the Bundy case because the federal circuit examined the district court’s reasoning for granting the continuance, which included the complexity of the case and the fact that the defendants would not be greatly prejudiced by a delay since they were not in custody.

The Bundys are in custody and thereby greatly prejudiced by the federal team (Navarro and the prosecutors) decision to delay the trial. Delay of the trial works to the benefit of the federal team because:

It places additional pressure on the defendants to accept a plea deal, thereby making an expensive and protracted trial unnecessary

Witnesses and testimony not favorable to the government’s case, have a greater chance of disappearing and memories fading with the passage of time.

Private prisons make profits off of not guilty but detained prisoners through cheap labor and government incentives. Share holders in these private prisons may be linked to government actors through difficult to trace financial instruments.

The threat to the prosecutors, the judge, BLM, the FBI, the Marshal Service and other government entities are reduced as the defendants are not able to effectively go on the offensive and file counter claims on the constitutionality of their actions, their authority and jurisdiction.

The writer observed a few days of trial in Las Vegas with six (6) of the defendants and noted that mountains of evidence and discovery was submitted by the prosecution, under a multiplicity of counts and charges. This was the doing of the prosecution, they created the complexity.

In contrast, the defense tried to reduce it to the most simplest terms, essentially arguing that the defendants came to Bunkerville spontaneously, under a first amendment right to assemble and to protest. There was no conspiracy nor was there any intent to impede federal officers in the performance of their duties unless those officers were exceeding the scope of their authority.

The jury seemed to be overwhelmed by the confusing and convoluted mountain of information from the prosecution, including the 50 pages of jury instructions, which ultimately led to a hung jury and a mistrial. The vote was 10 to 2 in favor of acquittal with evidence that the jury may have voted 12 to 0 for acquittal prior to undue influence by the judge.


The government ship, has given itself abundant loop holes against the threat of being tethered to a speedy trial requirement. With so much discretion and so much common law on their side, prosecutor Myhre and his federal team (Navarro included) can safely claim that they are excluded from violating the Speedy Trial Act due the “ends of justice” exclusions afforded to them and they may even be able to break the 5 year record of not violating the speedy trial act.

Nevertheless, this writer fervently hopes that aggressive defense attorneys will file a flurry of motions and claims against the federal team and that at least some of the claims will gain traction.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions (photo: Reuters)

The new Attorney General for the Trump administration is a dark cloud on the horizon, as he has advocated for more prisons and a more intense “get tough on crime” policy.

Getting tough on crime is a pretext for many anti-Bill of Rights laws, for mandatory minimum sentencing such as those that have turned the lives of the Hammond family into a hell. Getting tough on crime laws and punishments assume that the creators and administrators of such tough, draconian laws are moral people with a moral compass. When we see good people like the Hammonds and the Bundys become victims to such tough-on-crime laws, then we know that it is due to moral bankruptcy.

As the writer has stated previously, this issue is not only about the Bundys et al, it is about all of us. With the growth of private prisons and their insatiable appetite for more not guilty, not convicted prisoners, we are all under extreme peril. It behooves us to visit our elected representatives and demand that the government ship be brought back to port and tightly bound to the dock (the constitution)

4 Comments on The Tragic Demise Of A Right To A Speedy Trial

  1. “The Bill of Rights assumes that the accuser, which is the state in all criminal matters, has so many resources at its disposal, that it does not need any assistance in order to even the playing field.”

    What information leads to that conclusion?

    My suggestion to anyone who has also been lead by information (or experience) to that conclusion is to entertain the idea that information leading to that conclusion is patently false.

    From a very important book titled The Conviction Factory, The Collapse of America’s Criminal Courts, by Roger Roots is the following relevant information:

    Page 40
    Private Prosecutors
    “For decades before and after the Revolution, the adjudication of criminals in America was governed primarily by the rule of private prosecution: (1) victims of serious crimes approached a community grand jury, (2) the grand jury investigated the matter and issued an indictment only if it concluded that a crime should be charged, and (3) the victim himself or his representative (generally an attorney but sometimes a state attorney general) prosecuted the defendant before a petit jury of twelve men. Criminal actions were only a step away from civil actions – the only material difference being that criminal claims ostensibly involved an interest of the public at large as well as the victim. Private prosecutors acted under authority of the people and in the name of the state – but for their own vindication. The very term “prosecutor” meant criminal plaintiff and implied a private person. A government prosecutor was referred to as an attorney general and was a rare phenomenon in criminal cases at the time of the nation’s founding. When a private individual prosecuted an action in the name of the state, the attorney general was required to allow the prosecutor to use his name – even if the attorney general himself did not approve of the action.
    Private prosecution meant that criminal cases were for the most part limited by the need of crime victims for vindication. Crime victims held the keys to a potential defendant’s fate and often negotiated the settlement of criminal cases. After a case was initiated in the name of the people, however, private prosecutors were prohibited from withdrawing the action pursuant to private agreement with the defendant. Court intervention was occasionally required to compel injured crime victims to appear against offenders in court and “not to make bargains to allow [defendants] to escape conviction, if they…repair the injury.”

    That is very important information for many reasons, not the least of which is to contend with this very obviously dangerous falsehood:

    “The Bill of Rights assumes that the accuser, which is the state in all criminal matters, has so many resources at its disposal, that it does not need any assistance in order to even the playing field.”

    In a republic (the public thing) it is the business of everyone, by duty, meaning duty bound, to prosecute clear and present dangers to innocent people, which are thereby clear and present dangers to liberty, and anyone working for the government (the public thing) are there to assist in that duty, to nurture that duty, not prevent it.

    So it is once again clue time for the clueless.

    If all injuries done to all people all the time were no danger at all to the public as a whole (the public at large: the republic) then all interaction in that area, call it America, would be civil. All civil controversies, thereby, would be settled in a civil manner, as no one would escalate their conduct to such a degree as to endanger the public at large, turning their behavior into a clear and present danger to everyone, not just an alleged clear and present danger to one individual according to one individual, where those 2 individuals are in need of some nurturing concerning how best to settle a civil controversy in a civilized area where the main duty is to preserve the peace and protect everyone in the public thing: America.

    But there are wolves out there, clear and present dangers to the public thing, which means clear and present dangers to innocent children on the playground, and so those wolves who escalate their behavior from civil to criminal behavior ought to be held to account: prosecuted with due process of law, called out before they turn criminal if possible, but called out rather than aid those criminals in their effort to keep their malevolence a secret.

    The people are duty bound to prosecute, hell that is the definition of the word, at least according to the work by Roger Roots, a prosecutor is a private individual: not a legal fiction. A prosecutor is a private individual alerting everyone (the public) to dangers endangering everyone (the public thing), not a legal fiction in place to cover-up, protect, and serve, the criminals, to keep the public at large clueless.

    So how long does it take to turn duty bound prosecutors, all of us in America, into compliant, ignorant, clueless, sheep; sheep sheared on a schedule to please the fake government wolves?

    “The Bill of Rights assumes that the accuser, which is the state in all criminal matters, has so many resources at its disposal, that it does not need any assistance in order to even the playing field.”

    Time will tell, and there are still among us people who find out the truth, prosecuting the liars, and if the tide does turn back to something resembling a swamp draining, then the swamp creatures who speak for their legal fiction, but claim to speak for the public thing, will be replaced with demonstrations of the facts that matter through public trials for the actual public thing: the republic, with names named, crimes perpetrated, and remedies prescribed by our representatives in fact: trial juries.

    That is what was demonstrated in the recent Bundy Family persecution (counterfeit) trials.

    The fake government is on trial, for everyone to see, even the clueless can see if they decide to, as the fake government agents intend to use the fake government to silence those who dare to call out (prosecute) wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    Every step now taken by the fake government, to silence those who effectively prosecute the fake government (see for example Martin Luther King Jr. and Lavoy Finicum), are now steps that expose the fake government for what the fake government is in fact.

    Even as the fake government intends to silence private prosecutors (defendants according to the persecutors) in court, issuing gag orders on the targets of their persecutions, the people still manage to speak as one. The people still manage to speak as one body of truth finding people in some juries: see the Bundy Family, etc., case for example. Those carefully chosen to be on the jury (stacking a jury is a very serious crime), as clueless as they may or may not be, as well paid to look the other way as they may or may not be, or as fearful under extreme duress as they may or may not be suffering threats made by fake government agents, jurors still, to this day, serve the actual purpose of government, as the government has demonstrably turned into a criminal enterprise, as the fake government is on trial not the targets of their persecution.

    To the citizens of the United States by Thomas Paine
    November 15, 1802

    “But a faction, acting in disguise, was rising in America; they had lost sight of first principles. They were beginning to contemplate government as a profitable monopoly, and the people as hereditary property.”

  2. Private prisons are a very bad option for our govt to use because it is a PPP- a Public Private Partnership. PPPs are the exact definition of fascism. In fact, they changed the name “fascism” to “PPPs”, so people wouldn’t have a clue as to what they were actually doing. PPPs are Musolini’s exact definition of the ultimate working fascist system, where he thought that if govt would work hand in hand with private corporations, they could perfectly control the people in tandem, as what one side couldn’t do because of laws, the other could do because they were the private sector, and vs.vs. So any time there is a PPP, you know it is going to be really bad for the people.
    So it is no surprise that these privately owned prisons can get away with exceptionally poor treatment of the people inside them, and of course it doesn’t fall on any elected official or branch of govt. Private prisons need to be brought to an end, just as do all the other PPPs which are letting the govt get away with the gross misappropriation of lawfully collected taxes.

    • Your PPP comment about the government working with the private sector to control the public is definitely a good point. You are right about using the private sector to control the public in ways and areas they aren’t allowed. That is the strategy and techniques used in community policing. The police/government entities are using the private sector/community/neighborhood to control the public or targeted individual citizens they identify as persons of interest. They are more less using the community policing programs and neighborhood watch programs to commit illegal acts they know they are prohibited from doing. More less these community watch groups are harassing and terrorizing citizens who have never been charged or even accused of a crime! They are creating a group of members who regularly meet to discuss the ways and means in which they can perpetrate the person of interest. Equal to organized crime! Never being found guilty, charged or even accused of a crime presumes that person is INNOCENT until proven guilty. Without ever accusing someone, yet assuming the are guilty and punishing them is a violation of due process. It is a crime. The community policing programs and neighborhood watch are not judge jury and/or executioner! They should not be enabled to commit crimes, harass, terrorize, emotionally abuse, gather information, invade the privacy, stalk, slander. watch, track, surveil, ridicule or defame the character of anyone. They are viewing people in the privacy of their own homes where they are entitled to enjoy their own surroundings peacefully and quietly. Community citizens do not have the authorization, power, or the right to conduct investigations, warrantless searches, gather federally protected, or personal information on anyone. They are committing crimes against innocent people. They are the criminals! They are acting as if they have the power and authority punish people. Giving them access to information or encouraging the community to essentually commit crimes on innocent people is an illegal extension of the law and abuse of power! They are harassing and terrorizing people with the goal of breaking them down emotionally and ruining their lives. This is nothing less than terrorism. They are launching smear campaigns against people who for any undisclosed reasons, and targeting and harrassing these people in an effort to destroy their lives. They go way to far. In some cases doing this for years. They slander and smear that person without proper authority to do so. Antagonizing, pushing, poking and provoking them emotionally to intentionally make them have either a nervous breakdown or commit crimes so the will be incarcerated or institutionalized. The are gaslighting innocent people in cruel and unusual ways which is not only illegal,but immoral. Really, they are committing serious crimes against the targeted person who’ve never been given the opportunity to defend themselves and prove their own innocence! The presentation of the government agency or local police department is that of “we must all work together”, a group thinking, mob mentality. They are actually bullying their own neighbors who have never been legally charged with a crime, convicting them without a trial, and punishing them without due process. No right to a trial by jury, no innocent until proven guilty, no preponderance of evidence or judgement without doubt. They are misusing the criminal justice system. Denying innocent people of their own protections. They are being profiled, discriminated against and are deprived the protections designed to protect everyone equally. Usually without even knowing why they are being harassed. These are violations of our constitutional rights!!!!! It is unjust and a terrible idea to recruit ordinary citizens to police our communities. They go way too far. Sometimes people just need to quite frankly mind their own business. Not take the law into their own hands invading the privacy of others and abusing them because someone said something bad about another. Those committing crimes against others are nothing but criminals themselves. These groups are making private prisons out of someone’s own home. I;m sure those whom I speak of are also censoring internet illegally. Thankfully I too am granted the freedom of speech.

  3. I believe everyone should have a speedy trial. But to say the government is building prisons for not guilt people is a crock! I understand the writer is upset because these people are in jail. Hey write your p President. Hes on twitter everyday. But to act like all government is bad is crazy because now it definitely is not. They took over buildings and refused to get cows off the land. Many times they were warned. Right or wrong they should have gotten the cows and left. Then go to court to fight them. They would probably loose im sure but it happens and thats life. Im very sorry it happened. I will even write the President to ask him to check into if they are being held without cause. Good luck and Ill pray for everyone. By the way. My husband was a police officer. A very good one. He could have but wasnt he could have been one of those police officers having to stand against them. Just doing his job for a pay check. I think a person is supposed to obey what ever the law says weather its right or wrong you dont just get a gun and stand your ground against them. If you do it never ever ends the way you want.

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