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Name: People v. Mirenda
Case #: D053261
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 06/16/2009
Summary

A 26-year delay in the arrest of defendant following the filing of the complaint may result in a federal due process violation, as well as a violation of a defendant’s state constitutional right to a speedy trial, justifying dismissal of the action. A defendant has a right to a speedy trial guaranteed him by both federal law and the California Constitution. If the delay occurs after the filing of the complaint, in an action raising the issue, defendant must affirmatively demonstrate actual prejudice. Once he has done so, the court will then balance the state’s justification for the delay against the prejudice in determining whether defendant is entitled to a remedy. Although excessive delay alone cannot determine whether there has been a violation of a right to speedy trial, it is an important factor to consider as excessive delay presumptively compromises the reliability of a trial in ways that may be difficult to establish. When a defendant brings a motion to dismiss based on preindictment delay, it is within the discretion of the court to rule on the motion before, during, or after trial. In 1981, a complaint was filed charging appellant with shooting his roommate and a warrant issued for appellant’s arrest. Appellant was arrested on the warrant in Pennsylvania in 1982, but the prosecutor declined to extradite him when the victim could not be found. The warrant was then modified for service in California only. In 2007, a quarter of a century later, appellant attempted to apply for social security disability benefits, but was told he first would have to clear up an outstanding warrant. Appellant contacted the public defender’s office which, in turn, contacted the prosecutor. The prosecutor was able to locate the victim and resumed prosecution. Appellant filed a pretrial motion for dismissal based on the violation of his speedy trial rights, which was granted by the trial court. The appellate court upheld the ruling, observing that appellant established prejudice by showing that the only eyewitness to the shooting had recently changed her account and that the detective who interviewed the witness at the time had since died so corroboration/impeachment was impossible. Although the prosecution’s delay up to 1982 when it declined to extradite may have been justified, after that date there was no evidence justifying the delay. The appellate court also found that the trial court’s dismissal of the action in its entirety, with prejudice, was supported by substantial evidence.