The AFCCA, finding error in the military judge’s analysis, reversed Senior Airman Matthew C. Harrington’s motion to dismiss for a violation of his speedy trial rights.
Appellee, Senior Airman Matthew C. Harrington, stood trial for having committed sexual assault in violation of Art. 120, UCMJ. The government sought an Art. 62 interlocutory appeal, challenging the military judge’s ruling on the grounds that he erred in finding a delay of trial violated Appellee’s 6th amendment rights to a speedy trial. In an unanimous opinion, the Court agreed.
The Court determined the military judge had erred because the burden rested on the defendant to prove there was prejudice. Appellee was not confined at any point, demonstrated any specific anxiety or concern distinguished from others awaiting trial.
Defense argued prejudice existed because, over the course of the trial delay, two witnesses had lost their memories of the night in question. The appellee failed to demonstrate that these witnesses not only lost their memories during the period of facially unreasonable delay, but that this would actually have prejudiced his defense at trial. The Court concluded in light of the availability of the witnesses prior testimony, original evidence the court set aside the conviction on, and that the military judge had failed to explain how live testimony would be superior to the previous evidence, the Court concluded there was no prejudice to Appellee as a result of the delay.
Opinion Authored by Judge Johnson, joined by Senior Judge Posch and Judge Key.
When assessing a 6th amendment violation, a court takes into account: 1) the length of the delay; 2) reason for the delay; 3) demand for a speedy trial, and; 4) prejudice.
The Court found that the military judge erred specifically in his analysis of the fourth factor and thus will only analyze prejudice in this opinion. Additionally, the court concluded that the other factors taken together only moderately favored the Appellee.