State v. Stock, 26,148.

Citation2006 NMCA 140,147 P.3d 885
Decision Date29 September 2006
Docket NumberNo. 26,148.,26,148.
PartiesSTATE of New Mexico, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Paul STOCK, Defendant-Appellee.
CourtCourt of Appeals of New Mexico

Patricia A. Madrid, Attorney General, Santa Fe, NM, Ralph E. Trujillo, Assistant Attorney General, Albuquerque, NM, for Appellant.

Law Offices of Nancy L. Simmons, P.C., Nancy L. Simmons, Albuquerque, NM, for Appellee.

OPINION

PICKARD, Judge.

{1} This case raises the difficult question of whether a defendant's constitutional right to a speedy trial is violated when he is incarcerated and awaiting trial for more than three years, but the delay is in part attributable to the neglect of his overworked public defenders. We hold that, under the egregious facts of this particular case, the defendant's speedy trial rights were violated. Accordingly, we affirm the district court's dismissal of all the charges against the defendant.

BACKGROUND

{2} Defendant Paul Stock was indicted on numerous counts of criminal sexual penetration of a minor and other charges on August 17, 2000. Defendant was arraigned on September 25, 2000. Trial was initially set for March 6, 2001. On February 19, 2001, defense counsel requested an extension of time. The State filed a motion to extend the six-month rule, noting that the reason for the motion was Defendant's request for a continuance, and the district court granted the extension. See Rule 5-604 NMRA. On April 27, 2001, the district court granted Defendant's motion for a forensic evaluation to determine whether Defendant was competent to stand trial. The order stated that the six-month rule would be tolled pending the evaluation. A status conference was held on May 14, 2001, during which the district court was reminded that Defendant's competency needed to be evaluated.

{3} It appears that the forensic examiner issued a report on August 29, 2001, finding Defendant competent to stand trial. The State asserts that the record does not reveal who received this report, and it appears that neither the State nor the district court received the report at this time. On April 1, 2002, nearly a year after the last status conference, the State requested a status conference regarding competency. A conference was held on May 6, 2002, at which defense counsel stated that Defendant had been found competent to stand trial. At this conference, however, defense counsel continued to question Defendant's competency and requested another continuance for the purpose of having Defendant evaluated by a second expert. The court granted the continuance and stated that the next hearing would be at Defendant's request. There is no indication in the record that the court actually ordered another evaluation.

{4} The record shows that no further activity occurred in the case for nearly a year and a half until October 9, 2003, when defense counsel filed a request for a status conference. It appears that a second competency evaluation had been completed and sent to defense counsel on November 20, 2002, but once again, there is no indication that this report, or any notification that an evaluation had been completed, was sent to the State or the district court. This report was equivocal regarding Defendant's competency, stating, "Individuals with [Defendant's] intellectual capacity are sometimes competent but often are incompetent. . . . As this issue remains unclear[,] it may take further assessment of [Defendant] to be more definitive."

{5} A status conference was held on October 27, 2003, at which defense counsel stated that the first expert had found Defendant competent, but the second expert had issued an ambiguous report. Defense counsel and the State both reported that there were ongoing plea negotiations regarding a plea of guilty but mentally ill. The State represented that an additional evaluation would be necessary for such a plea and requested that the court order the required evaluation. The court apparently agreed with this request, but the record does not show an order for evaluation. At the October 2003 hearing, the court also set a trial date of January 6, 2004, in case the plea negotiations were not successful.

{6} A pretrial conference was held on November 3, 2003, at which the court found Defendant competent. On December 4, 2003, the court issued a "Competency Order Nunc Pro Tunc," stating that Defendant was competent to stand trial.

{7} Another pretrial conference was held on December 1, 2003. At this conference, it appears that both the State and defense counsel reported that plea negotiations were still ongoing and that another evaluation would be needed. On December 8, 2003, the court ordered another evaluation, stating that the six-month rule was tolled. The court held three more status conferences on January 12, 2004, February 2, 2004, and February 6, 2004. As of at least February 2, 2004, the additional competency evaluation had not been completed. Ruling that Defendant's speedy trial rights had been violated, the court sua sponte dismissed all charges against Defendant and ordered that he be released from custody. The court also appointed a guardian ad litem for Defendant. The State appealed the order of dismissal. In an unpublished memorandum opinion, this Court reversed and remanded in order for the district court to hold an evidentiary hearing.

{8} Defendant filed a motion to dismiss in the district court on June 20, 2005. The court held an evidentiary hearing on August 23, 2005. All three of Defendant's public defenders testified. They all stated that, at the time they worked on Defendant's case, they were operating under extremely heavy caseloads, ranging from 200 to 300 cases each for his attorneys and 75 to 100 cases for the district defender, who also had administrative duties. Two of the attorneys stated that they did not have the resources to both pursue the issue of Defendant's competency and investigate the merits of the case and that, having to choose between these two avenues, they decided to pursue competency only. Defense counsel presented evidence of numerous instances of Defendant being attacked in jail and numerous requests for Defendant to be placed in administrative segregation for his own safety.

{9} The State acknowledged that the delay in bringing Defendant to trial was presumptively prejudicial. The State noted that while defense counsel had "dropped the ball," all of the delay was for the purpose of determining Defendant's competency and was thus for his benefit. The State also argued that there was no actual prejudice because all of the witnesses were still available and there was no evidence that their memories had been tainted. When asked by the court whether the State had some obligation to move the case along rather than just "sit[ting] on your hands," the prosecutor acknowledged that at least "personally," she felt there was such an obligation.

{10} At the close of the hearing, the district court once again dismissed the charges. The court found that, while all of the public defenders who worked on Defendant's case were competent and ethical, it was "humanly impossible for lawyers to practice law under the conditions that we're asking them to practice law." The court stated that the case showed "the need for the legislature, and the governor, and the people of this state to wake up and start properly funding not only the public defenders' office but also the district attorneys' offices," because otherwise courts would have to continue dismissing cases that were not timely prosecuted.

{11} The court also found that there had been no intentional strategy of delay on the part of defense counsel, and that the State had an obligation to monitor the case and keep it moving. The court expressed concern that it appeared that Defendant had agreed to the various continuances, but the court questioned such acquiescence in view of the fact that Defendant was found to have the intellectual functioning of a twelve-year-old. The court also noted that even if Defendant had wanted to express his frustration about the delays, he could not have done so because he often was not transported to court for hearings. Finally, the court found that the delay had prejudiced Defendant. The court noted that there was documentation of Defendant being attacked in jail on numerous occasions. The court further noted that (1) it had been five years since the alleged incident, (2) the alleged victim had never been interviewed by defense counsel, and (3) any physical examination would now be useless or of limited value. The State appeals the dismissal.

DISCUSSION

{12} We recently set forth the framework under which we analyze a speedy trial claim:

The right to a speedy trial is protected by the Sixth Amendment, made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, and Article II, Section 14 of our state constitution. The right attaches when the defendant becomes an accused, either at the time of arrest or upon the issuance of an indictment or information. When a speedy trial claim is made, the defendant must make a threshold showing that the length of delay is presumptively prejudicial. Once that showing has been made, the burden of persuasion shifts to the State to show, on balance, that the four factors do not weigh in favor of dismissal. Courts balance four factors to determine whether a speedy trial violation has occurred. The factors to be considered are: (1) the length of delay, (2) the reason for delay, (3) the defendant's assertion of the right, and (4) prejudice to the defendant. On appeal from a speedy trial claim, we [defer] to the district court's fact finding, [but] independently examine the [four factors] to ensure that no violation has occurred.

State v. Laney, 2003-NMCA-144, ¶ 10, 134 N.M. 648, 81 P.3d 591 (alterations in original) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). In balancing...

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  • State v. Brillon
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    • United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
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