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No statutory, constitutional speedy trial violation

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//July 25, 2022

No statutory, constitutional speedy trial violation

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//July 25, 2022//

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Although some factors weigh in defendant’s favor concerning his speedy trial claims, he is not entitled to relief because he has not shown any particularized prejudice.


A grand jury indicted defendant Edwards and three others on Aug. 4, 2021, for first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, felony homicide, attempted second-degree murder, burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary, attempted robbery, aggravated malicious wounding, and a number of firearm offenses.

The court denied the commonwealth’s motion for joinder of Edwards, Watson, Doyle and Dooley. Watson, Doyle and Dooley moved for dismissal based on speedy trial grounds. The court denied the motions on May 3, 2022. On May 16, 2022, Edwards moved for dismissal based on a speedy trial violation.

Edwards argues that his statutory and constitutional rights to a speedy trial have been violated.

The court now issues its ruling.

Statutory right

Edwards was indicted on Aug. 4, 2021, and arrested on the indictments on Nov. 1, 2021. The relevant statute requires that a jailed defendant must be tried within five months from the indictment’s date.

“Accordingly, as of the date of the Hearing, 303 days have passed since Edwards’s indictment on the pending charges and 214 days have passed since the date of Edwards’ related arrest.

“The Court notes that on May 27, 2022, the Supreme Court of Virginia issued an additional pandemic-related order continuing its declaration of judicial emergency and extending the tolling of the statutory Speedy Trial Act deadlines through June 22, 2022.

“The Court adopts its reasoning from its prior May 3, 2022, Letter Opinion and finds that Edwards’ statutory right to a speedy trial was not violated because the Supreme Court of Virginia tolled the running of the statutory speedy trial clock.”

Constitutional right

“Regarding Edwards’ constitutional right to a speedy trial, the Court applies the four­factor balancing test established  by Barker v. Wingo. 407 U.S. 514, 530 (1972). Specifically, the Court balances (1) the length of the delay, (2) the reason for the delay, (3) the defendant’s assertion of his right to a speedy trial, and (4) the prejudice to the defendant as a result of the delay.”

About 10 months have passed since Edwards was arrested. The delay is presumptively prejudicial. As to the reason for the delay, “the Court adopts its finding from its May 3, 2022, Letter Opinion and holds that the Commonwealth’s negligence led to the current delay.”

Edwards has twice asserted his right to a speedy trial, once in a scheduling order and in the current motion to dismiss on speedy trial grounds.

Regarding prejudice resulting from the delay, “the Court finds that Edwards has failed to sufficiently allege particularized prejudice[.]” He notes that one witness has died and two other witnesses cannot be located. However, he does not allege that the one witness died during the delay in the proceedings, nor has he claimed the delay in trying him resulted in the other witnesses’ unavailability.

“In balancing the Barker factors, the Court finds, for the reasons stated above; that Edwards’ constitutional speedy trial claims fail.”

The motion to dismiss is denied.

Commonwealth v. Edwards, Case No. CR 21-1248, June 9, 2022. City of Norfolk Circuit Court (Order) (Lannetti). VLW 022-8-031, 4 pp.

VLW 022-8-031

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