Charles Leon Kirksey aka Cedric Smith v. the State of Maryland
How the Case Began
Charles Leon Kirksey (also known as Cedric Smith) had been convicted of battery by the Harford County Circuit Court under a sworn statement of facts before a trial bench. The appellant was sentenced to three years in jail (with all but 18 months suspended, to be served consecutively to his sentence for a previous conviction) and a further three years of supervised probation upon release.
Having been indicted for two counts of bank robberies in Baltimore, Maryland, which violated 18 U.S.C. §§ 2113 sections (a) and (f), Kirksey pled guilty to one count while reserving a right to appeal. The district court, however, established that the defendant had previously been convicted on four occasions for violent crimes. Therefore, he was sentenced as a career offender in keeping with U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1 (which requires two previous crimes of violence), imposing a 151-month sentence on Kirksey.
Action Taken by the Parties
Kirksey appealed his sentence on grounds that his right to a speedy trial had been denied. He argues that the trial court erred in abnegating his request to dismiss since his right to a speedy trial was involved. The appellant cites the Sixth Amendment and the Maryland Declaration of Rights. According to the Sixth Amendment, “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy… The trial” while the Maryland Declaration of Rights states, “in all prosecutions every man hath a right… to a speedy trial…”
Relief Requested by the Appellant
The appellant filed a motion to dismiss on grounds of lack of a speedy trial.
Whether the appellant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial had been denied?
The court noted that the issues raised by the appellant were neither necessary nor sufficient to the finding of a deprivation of his right to a speedy trial. For constitutional purposes, the length of trial delay is calculated from the day arrest to the day of trial. In this case, the court observed that while the delay, which was just over twenty-four months, was “sufficient to trigger a balancing process,” circumstances surrounding the delay must be considered carefully.
While the appellant argued that most of the delays were because either the judge or the jury were unavailable and, therefore, ought to have been charged to the state, the court noted such delays as neutral since there was no evidence of a deliberate attempt by the state to gain technical advantage or obstruct the defense. Put differently, while the reasons for the delay are for the most part attributable to the state, they are for administrative reasons and, therefore, do not weigh heavily in the state.
5. Impression of the Case
Delays in the trial process work against the right to speedy trial guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. However, it is important to note that the object of the speedy trial should not be achieved at the expense of the criminal justice system. In this regard, it is necessary to seek a practical balance between the need for justice and the need for speed. Therefore, the court acted within its mandate in denying the appellant’s motion to dismiss. The application of this case may likely affect those currently under trial, but whose trials have been protracted due to administrative challenges experienced by the courts.
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