State ex rel. Wolfrum v. Wiesman, SC 88294.

Decision Date22 May 2007
Docket NumberNo. SC 88294.,SC 88294.
Citation225 S.W.3d 409
PartiesSTATE ex rel. Robert WOLFRUM and Bevy Beimdiek, Relators, v. The Honorable Melvyn W. WIESMAN, Respondent.
CourtMissouri Supreme Court

Douglas J. Sidel, Office of St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney, Clayton, for Respondent.

Stanley Johnson, Clayton (Additional address), pro se.

Stanley Johnson, Mineral Point, pro se.

MARY R. RUSSELL, Judge.

Relators Robert Wolfrum and Bevy Beimdiek, employees of the Missouri State Public Defender System, Capital Litigation Division, seek a writ that would prevent Respondent Judge Wiesman from requiring them to try without delay a capital case they are unprepared to take to trial.1

The preliminary writ of prohibition previously issued in this case is made absolute, as this Court finds that Respondent should have granted Relators' request for additional time to prepare for trial.

Background

Relators are appointed counsel for Stanley Johnson. Johnson was serving a prison sentence for stealing and was incarcerated in the Farmington Correctional Center when DNA evidence linked him to an unsolved 1994 rape and murder. The State charged him with first-degree murder and forcible rape on September 6, 2006, and he was subsequently transferred to the higher-security prison at Potosi due to the seriousness of the new charges.

On September 25, Johnson filed a request for final disposition of indictments, informations, or complaints pursuant to the Uniform Mandatory Disposition of Detainers Law (UMDDL), sections 217.450-217.520, RSMo 2000.2 The grand jury's indictment of Johnson was filed on November 20, and Johnson was arraigned on December 13. He requested a public defender on December 21, and Relator Wolfrum entered his appearance for Johnson on December 22.

Respondent held a scheduling hearing on Johnson's case on January 19, 2007, at which time Relator Wolfrum3 filed a "Scheduling Memorandum in Connection with Entry" that requested that "the Court refrain from setting any trial date until counsel can give a reasonably confident indication that counsel can be ready for trial any date chosen." Relator Wolfum announced repeatedly that he was "currently unprepared to try this case" and requested additional time to prepare Johnson's defense.

In requesting a continuance for Johnson's trial, Relator Wolfrum detailed that the State intended to seek the death penalty, that his office had been on the case less than 30 days, and that the State had not yet disclosed all discovery.4 He articulated that the public defender's capital division was unprepared to proceed on Johnson's trial because it was burdened by a substantial capital case load and had limited investigatory resources.5 Relator Wolfrum explicitly stated that he would not be able to provide Johnson effective counsel if the trial date was not continued.6 He argued that "reasonable requests for additional time should be accommodated by the Court," particularly because section 217.460 permits the trial court to permit additional reasonable time for "good cause."

Johnson vehemently opposed Relator Wolfrum's arguments for delaying his trial. He demanded to be tried on the charges within 180 days pursuant to section 217.460, stating: "The Defendant also gives notice that he will not waive this demand for speedy trial and that no attorney appointed to represent the Defendant will have the right to waive this demand . . . ." Johnson argued that his counsel could not alter the 180-day limit because it would deny him his rights under that law. He complained that the pending charges had caused him to be moved to a more restrictive prison environment, which included "sleeping on a concrete bed" and limited release from his cell. Johnson affirmed that he was aware that his counsel would not be ready to provide him an effective defense if his trial was not delayed and expressed his willingness to go to trial with unprepared counsel.

Respondent denied Relator Wolfrum's requests for additional time and his oral motion to withdraw based on his inability to be ready for trial. Trial was set for March 12, 2007. Respondent explained in a supplemental hearing that he found Relator Wolfrum's request for a continuance was reasonable, given the short amount of time that defense counsel had been on the case and the complexity of defending a capital case.

Relators now seek relief from this Court, requesting a writ of prohibition that prevents Respondent from convening the trial as scheduled. They argue that Respondent wrongly refused to grant them additional time to prepare Johnson's defense because the plain language of section 217.460 permits a continuance in this case. They assert that section 217.460 requires only a showing of "good cause" before a continuance is granted, regardless of the defendant's consent.

Standards for Review

A writ of prohibition is appropriate where there is "an important question of law decided erroneously that would otherwise escape review by this Court, and the aggrieved party may suffer considerable hardship and expense as a consequence of the erroneous decision." State ex rel. Chassaing v. Mummert, 887 S.W.2d 573, 577 (Mo. banc 1994). Statutory interpretation is an issue of law that this Court reviews de novo. Delta Air Lines, Inc. v. Dir. of Revenue, 908 S.W.2d 353, 355 (Mo. banc 1995). The primary rule of statutory interpretation is to give effect to legislative intent as reflected in the plain language of the statute. Id.

Analysis

Section 217.450.1 provides, in relevant part: "Any person confined in a department correctional facility may request a final disposition of any untried indictment, information or complaint pending in this state on the basis of which a detainer has been lodged against him while so imprisoned." Section 217.460 provides:

Within [180] days after the receipt of the request and certificate, pursuant to sections 217.450 and 217.455, by the court and the prosecuting attorney or within such additional necessary or reasonable time as the court may grant, for good cause shown in open court, the offender or his counsel being present, the indictment, information or complaint shall be brought to trial. The parties may stipulate for a continuance or a continuance may be granted if notice is given to the attorney of record with an opportunity for him to be heard. If the indictment, information or complaint is not brought to trial within that period no court of this state shall have jurisdiction of such indictment, information or complaint, nor shall the untried indictment, information or complaint be of any further force or effect; and the court shall issue an order dismissing the same with prejudice.

Section 217.460 (emphasis added).

The plain language of section 217.460 makes clear that it is within the trial court's discretion to allow a continuance "for good cause shown."7 This language necessarily includes good cause shown by defense counsel. The statute does not require that the defendant consent to the delay, but does require that either the defendant or his attorney must be present. Where, as in this case, the defendant is represented by counsel, but objects to further delay, defendant's counsel may request and be granted a continuance pursuant to section 217.460, so long as the additional necessary or reasonable...

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    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Missouri
    • 31 Marzo 2019
    ...shall be brought to trial... (emphasis added).The trial court has discretion to allow a continuance for good cause. State ex rel. Wolfrum v. Wiesman , 225 S.W.3d 409, 412 (Mo. banc 2007). Defense counsel may show good cause for a continuance under the statute even if defendant objects so lo......
  • State v. Taylor
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    ...shall be brought to trial ... (emphasis added). The trial court has discretion to allow a continuance for good cause. State ex rel. Wolfrum v. Wiesman, 225 S.W.3d 409, 412 (Mo. banc 2007). Defense counsel may show good cause for a continuance under the statute even if defendant objects so l......
  • State ex rel. Mo. Pub. Defender Comm'n v. Waters
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    ...(“The Sixth Amendment affords all citizens facing criminal charges the right to effective assistance of counsel.”); State ex rel. Wolfrum v. Wiesman, 225 S.W.3d 409, 412 (Mo. banc 2007) (“Any defendant [who] has exercised his right to counsel is guaranteed effective assistance of counsel, a......
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    ...("The Sixth Amendment affords all citizens facing criminal charges the right to effective assistance of counsel."); State ex rel. Wolfrum v. Wiesman, 225 S.W.3d 409, 412 (Mo. banc 2007) ("Any defendant that has exercised his right to counsel is guaranteed effective assistance of counsel, an......
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2 books & journal articles
  • Saving Missouri's public defender system: a call for adequate legislative funding.
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    ...Addresses the Missouri Bar, Judicial Conference in Springfield, 63 J.MO. B. 282, 284-85 (2007). (124.) Id. (125.) Id. at 285. (126.) 225 S.W.3d 409 (Mo. 2007) (en (127.) Id. at 410. (128.) Id. at 410 n.5. (129.) Id. (130.) Id. at 411-12. (131.) Id. at 412. (132.) Id. (133.) Id. (citing McMa......
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    • The Missouri Bar Criminal Practice Deskbook Chapter 13 Motions to Dismiss
    • Invalid date
    ...UMDDL may be extended by the court for “good cause shown” in open court by the defendant’s counsel. State ex rel. Wolfrum v. Wiesman, 225 S.W.3d 409 (Mo. banc 2007). The 180-day period required by § 217.460 excludes any delay of trial attributed to the defendant’s affirmative action or agre......

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