United States v. Donald, No. 80-1582

CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBURGER
Citation102 S.Ct. 1497,456 U.S. 1,71 L.Ed.2d 696
Docket NumberNo. 80-1582
Decision Date31 March 1982
PartiesUNITED STATES, Petitioner v. Jeffrey R. MacDONALD

456 U.S. 1
102 S.Ct. 1497
71 L.Ed.2d 696
UNITED STATES, Petitioner

v.

Jeffrey R. MacDONALD.

No. 80-1582.
Argued Dec. 7, 1981.
Decided March 31, 1982.
Syllabus

In May 1970, the Army formally charged respondent, a captain in the Army Medical Corps, with the murders earlier that year of his pregnant wife and two children on a military reservation. Later that year, the military charges were dismissed and the respondent was honorably discharged on the basis of hardship, but at the Justice Department's request the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) continued its investigation of the homicides. In June 1972, the CID forwarded a report recommending further investigation, and the Justice Department, in 1974, ultimately presented the matter to a grand jury, which returned an indictment in January 1975, charging respondent with the three murders. On an interlocutory appeal from the District Court's denial of respondent's motion to dismiss the indictment, the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the delay between the June 1972 submission of the CID report to the Justice Department and the 1974 convening of the grand jury violated respondent's Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. After this Court's decision that respondent could not appeal the denial of his motion to dismiss on speedy trial grounds until after completion of the trial, 435 U.S. 850, 98 S.Ct. 1547, 56 L.Ed.2d 18, respondent was tried and convicted. The Court of Appeals again held that the indictment violated respondent's right to a speedy trial and dismissed the indictment.

Held: The time between dismissal of the military charges and the subsequent indictment on civilian charges may not be considered in determining whether the delay in bringing respondent to trial violated his right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment. Pp. 6-10.

Page 2

(a) The Speedy Trial Clause of the Sixth Amendment does not apply to the period before a defendant is indicted, arrested, or otherwise officially accused. Although delay prior to arrest or indictment may give rise to a due process claim under the Fifth Amendment or to a claim under any applicable statute of limitations, no Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial arises until charges are pending. Similarly, any undue delay after the Government, acting in good faith, formally dismisses charges must be scrutinized under the Due Process Clause, not the Speedy Trial Clause. Once charges are dismissed, the speedy trial guarantee which is designed primarily to minimize the possibility of lengthy incarceration prior to trial, to reduce the lesser, but nevertheless substantial, impairment of liberty imposed on an accused while released on bail, and to shorten the disruption of life caused by arrest and the presence of unresolved criminal charges—is no longer applicable. Following dismissal of charges, any restraint on liberty, disruption of employment, strain on financial resources, and exposure to public obloquy, stress and anxiety is no greater than it is upon anyone openly subject to a criminal investigation. Pp. 6-9.

(b) The Court of Appeals erred in holding, in essence, that criminal charges were pending against respondent during the entire period between his military arrest and his later indictment on civilian charges. Although respondent was subjected to stress and other adverse consequences flowing from the initial military charges and the continuing investigation after they were dismissed, he was not under arrest, not in custody, and not subject to any "criminal prosecution" until the civilian indictment was returned. He was legally and constitutionally in the same posture as though no charges had been made; he was free to go about his affairs, to practice his profession, and to continue with his life. Pp. 9-10.

632 F.2d 258 and 635 F.2d 1115, reversed and remanded.

Alan I. Horowitz, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Page 3

Ralph S. Spritzer, Philadelphia, Pa., for respondent.

Chief Justice BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari to decide whether the time between dismissal of military charges and a subsequent indictment on civilian criminal charges should be considered in determining whether the delay in bringing respondent to trial for the murder of his wife and two children violated his rights under the Speedy Trial Clause of the Sixth Amendment.

I

The facts in this case are not in issue; a jury heard and saw all the witnesses and saw the tangible evidence. The only point raised here by petitioner involves a legal issue under the Speedy Trial Clause of the Sixth Amendment. Accordingly, only a brief summary of the facts is called for. In the early morning of February 17, 1970, respondent's pregnant wife and his two daughters, aged 2 and 5, were brutally murdered in their home on the Fort Bragg, N.C., military reservation. At the time, MacDonald, a physician, was a captain in the Army Medical Corps stationed at Fort Bragg. When the military police arrived at the scene following a call from MacDonald, they found the three victims dead and MacDonald unconscious from multiple stab wounds, most of them superficial, but one a life-threatening chest wound which caused a lung to collapse.

At the time and in subsequent interviews, MacDonald told of a bizarre and ritualistic murder. He stated that he was asleep on the couch when he was awakened by his wife's screams. He said he saw a woman with blond hair wearing a floppy hat, white boots, and a short skirt carrying a lighted

Page 4

candle and chanting "acid is groovy; kill the pigs." 1 He claimed that three men standing near the couch attacked him, tearing his pajama top, stabbing him, and clubbing him into unconsciousness. When he awoke, he found his wife and two daughters dead. After trying to revive them and covering his wife's body with his pajama top, MacDonald called the military police. He lost consciousness again before the police arrived.

Physical evidence at the scene contradicted MacDonald's account and gave rise to the suspicion that MacDonald himself may have committed the crime.2 On April 6, 1970, the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) advised MacDonald that he was a suspect in the case and confined him to quarters. The Army formally charged MacDonald with the three murders on May 1, 1970. In accordance with Article

Page 5

32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. § 832, the Commanding General of MacDonald's unit appointed an officer to investigate the charges. After hearing a total of 56 witnesses, the investigating officer submitted a report recommending that the charges and specifications against MacDonald be dismissed. The Commanding General dismissed the military charges on October 23, 1970. On December 5, 1970, the Army granted MacDonald's request for an honorable discharge based on hardship.3

At the request of the Justice Department, however, the CID continued its investigation. In June 1972, the CID forwarded a 13-volume report to the Justice Department recommending further investigation. Additional reports were submitted during November 1972 and August 1973. Following evaluation of those reports, in August 1974, the Justice Department presented the matter to a grand jury. On January 24, 1975, the grand jury returned an indictment charging MacDonald with the three murders.

Prior to his trial in Federal District Court,4 MacDonald moved to dismiss the indictment, in part on the grounds that the delay in bringing him to trial violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. The District Court denied the motion, but the Court of Appeals allowed an interlocutory appeal and reversed, holding that the delay between the June 1972 submission of the CID report to the Justice Department and the August 1974 convening of the grand jury violated MacDonald's constitutional right to a speedy trial. MacDonald v. United States, 531 F.2d 196 (CA4 1976). We granted certiorari and reversed, holding that a criminal defendant could not appeal the denial of a motion to dismiss on Speedy Trial Clause grounds until after the trial had been completed. United States v. MacDonald, 435 U.S. 850, 98 S.Ct. 1547, 56 L.Ed.2d 18 (1978).

Page 6

MacDonald was then tried and convicted on two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to three consecutive terms of life imprisonment. On appeal, a divided panel of the Fourth Circuit again held that the indictment violated MacDonald's Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial and dismissed the indictment. 632 F.2d 258 (1980).5 The court denied rehearing en banc by an evenly divided vote. 635 F.2d 1115 (1980).

We granted certiorari, 451 U.S. 1016, 101 S.Ct. 3004, 69 L.Ed.2d 387 (1981), and we reverse.6

II

The Sixth Amendment provides that "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial. . . ." A literal reading of the Amendment suggests that this right attaches only when a formal criminal charge is instituted and a criminal prosecution begins.

In United States v. Marion, 404 U.S. 307, 313, 92 S.Ct. 455, 459, 30 L.Ed.2d 468 (1971), we held that the Speedy Trial Clause of the Sixth Amendment does not apply to the period before a defendant is indicted, arrested, or otherwise officially accused:

"On its face, the protection of the Amendment is activated only when a criminal prosecution has begun and extends only to those persons who have been 'accused' in the course of that prosecution. These provisions would seem to afford no protection to those not yet accused,

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nor would they seem to require the Government to discover, investigate, and accuse any person within any particular period of time. The Amendment would appear to guarantee to a criminal defendant that the Government will move with the dispatch that is appropriate to assure him an early and proper disposition of the charges against him."

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920 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Reed, No. 82-2447
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • April 13, 1984
    ...not establish a due process violation; indeed any knowing target of a criminal investigation could make a similar claim. See MacDonald, 456 U.S. 1, 8-9, 102 S.Ct. 1497, 1502-03, 71 L.Ed.2d 696 IV. Evidence of Olivastro Associates All defendants, except Reed, renew their trial objection to t......
  • Doggett v. United States, No. 90-857
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • October 9, 1991
    ...in fair adjudication. United States v. Marion, 404 U.S. 307, 320-323, 92 S.Ct. 455, 463-465, 30 L.Ed.2d 468; United States v. MacDonald, 456 U.S. 1, 8, 102 S.Ct. 1497, 1502, 71 L.Ed.2d 696; United States v. Loud Hawk, 474 U.S. 302, 312, 106 S.Ct. 648, 654, 88 L.Ed.2d 640, distin- Page 648 g......
  • Fogleman v. Hubbard, Civil Action 1:20-CV-12-HSO-RPM
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Mississippi
    • January 25, 2022
    ...trial clock 10 only stops “ticking, ” inter alia, after an indictment is “formally dropped” or “dismissed.” United States v. MacDonald, 456 U.S. 1, 7, 102 S.Ct. 1497, 71 L.Ed.2d 696 (1982). This is because, after dismissal of the accusatory instrument, “any restraint on liberty, disruption ......
  • U.S. v. Abu Ali, No. CRIM.A. 05-53GBL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • October 25, 2005
    ...to speedy trial "attaches only when a formal criminal charge is instituted and a criminal prosecution begins." United States v. MacDonald, 456 U.S. 1, 6, 102 S.Ct. 1497, 71 L.Ed.2d 696 (1982). Likewise, an arrest or indictment by one sovereign does not trigger the speedy trial guarantee of ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
920 cases
  • U.S. v. Reed, No. 82-2447
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • April 13, 1984
    ...not establish a due process violation; indeed any knowing target of a criminal investigation could make a similar claim. See MacDonald, 456 U.S. 1, 8-9, 102 S.Ct. 1497, 1502-03, 71 L.Ed.2d 696 IV. Evidence of Olivastro Associates All defendants, except Reed, renew their trial objection to t......
  • Doggett v. United States, No. 90-857
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • October 9, 1991
    ...in fair adjudication. United States v. Marion, 404 U.S. 307, 320-323, 92 S.Ct. 455, 463-465, 30 L.Ed.2d 468; United States v. MacDonald, 456 U.S. 1, 8, 102 S.Ct. 1497, 1502, 71 L.Ed.2d 696; United States v. Loud Hawk, 474 U.S. 302, 312, 106 S.Ct. 648, 654, 88 L.Ed.2d 640, distin- Page 648 g......
  • Fogleman v. Hubbard, Civil Action 1:20-CV-12-HSO-RPM
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Mississippi
    • January 25, 2022
    ...trial clock 10 only stops “ticking, ” inter alia, after an indictment is “formally dropped” or “dismissed.” United States v. MacDonald, 456 U.S. 1, 7, 102 S.Ct. 1497, 71 L.Ed.2d 696 (1982). This is because, after dismissal of the accusatory instrument, “any restraint on liberty, disruption ......
  • U.S. v. Abu Ali, No. CRIM.A. 05-53GBL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • October 25, 2005
    ...to speedy trial "attaches only when a formal criminal charge is instituted and a criminal prosecution begins." United States v. MacDonald, 456 U.S. 1, 6, 102 S.Ct. 1497, 71 L.Ed.2d 696 (1982). Likewise, an arrest or indictment by one sovereign does not trigger the speedy trial guarantee of ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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