Case Study: Barker v. Wingo, 504 U.S. 514, 1972
CASE STUDY: BARKER VS. WINGO, 504 U.S. 514, 1972
Case Study: Barker vs. Wingo, 504 US, 514, 1972
This paper is based on the case Barker vs. Wingo, and details critical facts about the background and proceedings, rights of a defendant and their violation while also discussing the right to speedy trial.
Barker vs. Wingo: critical facts
The Barker vs. Wingo case remains a groundbreaking case in US history because it brings to light the defendant’s rights, especially one of a speedy trial. On July 20th, 1958, an elderly couple in Christian County, Kentucky, were beaten to death by intruders. Those convicted were Silas Manning and Willie Barker, the latter of which had to appear in court sixteen times due to negligence and red tape.
When the two were indicted on September 15th of the same year, The DA believed that the Commonwealth had a better chance of convicting Manning, and that Barker would be acquitted unless Manning decided to turn on him CITATION New14 l 16393 (Newbauer & Fradella, 2014).
Manning’s prosecution, however, proved to be a complex matter on its own. His first trial reached no conclusion due to a hung jury. Following that, he was convicted in the second trial, but evidence obtained by means of an illegal search reversed the same due to an appeal. Manning was convicted again in the third trial, but the same was reversed yet again. The reason was cited as a change in venue that had not taken place. The fourth trial, once again, ended in a hung jury. Finally, Manning was convicted of one murder in his fifth trial, and of the second in his sixth one ( CITATION Fin15 l 16393 (Findlaw staff, n.d.).
The trial of Willie Barker was scheduled to take place in the September 1958 term. However, for as long as Manning’s trial continued, his case was postponed to be heard in the next seating. During all this time, Barker never objected. Ultimately, action from Barker’s attorney came at the time of the twelfth continuance, when he moved the court to dismiss the charges against his client. The motion was denied, and two more continuances were approved by the court before a trial date in March was finally set. However, that too was postponed due to the ex-sheriff, the Chief Investigating Officer in the case, falling sick CITATION Fin15 l 16393 (Findlaw staff, n.d.).
Eventually, the judge announced that were Barker not tried soon, the case against him would be dismissed. When the following trial was held, Barker moved to dismiss the charges against him, saying that his right to speedy trial had been violated. He had by then been in jail for more than five years without a trial. The court dismissed the motion, convicted Barker, and gave him a life sentence CITATION New14 l 16393 (Newbauer & Fradella, 2014).
Barker then went to the court of appeals and motioned once again on behalf of a speedy trial. The motion was dismissed yet again. He then petitioned for Habeus Corpus in the District Court and was once again dismissed, although a certificate for a probable cause to appeal was granted CITATION Fin15 l 16393 (Findlaw staff, n.d.).
The Four Factor Balancing test
Barker’s case was a turning point in the legal history of United States because it was the first instance where the right to speedy trial was discussed at length. The court determined that the same is relative, as it is impossible to say that a defendant has been held in custody for too long without considering all the aspects of the case. Only in cases where the delay is obviously intentional, and thus results in obstruction of justice can one say that the right has been violated. Since it is also vaguer than its constitutional counterparts, it is difficult to determine when the defendant has been dealt the short straw CITATION New14 l 16393 (Newbauer & Fradella, 2014).
However, there are four factors that the court used to discern whether the same was the case. These were: the length of the delay, the reason for the delay, prejudice to the defendant, and his/her assertion of the right. Firstly, the longer the sentencing takes, the worse effects it has on the mental well-being of the accused: unless the circumstances are glaringly peculiar, or prejudicial, there are no inquiries into the factors that lead to the delay CITATION Fin15 l 16393 (Findlaw staff, n.d.).
Closely following is the reason to delay: a deliberate attempt to stay the trial would be viewed as an action against the government, whereas legitimate reasons, such as overcrowded courts, are weighed less heavily. In the case of Barker vs. Wingo, the ex-sheriff being sick was considered a valid reason CITATION Fin15 l 16393 (Findlaw staff, n.d.)
Also considered is how strongly the defendant asserts his or her right, which is based partly on the length and reasons for the delay, as well as on personal prejudice. When a defendant claims that his right to speedy trial has been violated, the same is subject to grave inquisition and requires substantial evidentiary proof, in the absence of which the claim is considered void CITATION Fin15 l 16393 (Findlaw staff, n.d.).
Prejudice against defendant, and efforts to prevent it, are solely in the interest of the defendant, which are: to prevent pre-trial incarceration, maintaining the mental health of the accused, and preventing the defense from presenting a weak case. The last is the gravest kind of bias there is because it reflects upon the system in a negative light CITATION Fin15 l 16393 (Findlaw staff, n.d.).
The rights of a defendant
The interests of a defendant at trial are protected by the rights under fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth amendments CITATION New14 l 16393 (Newbauer & Fradella, 2014).
The Fourth Amendment deals with searches and seizures that cannot be explained with a valid reason. This means that the government should have a legitimate reason and documentation to search one’s property or belongings. Any evidence against one may not be illegally obtained CITATION Tra15 l 16393 (Tran, 2015).
The Fifth Amendment prevents the defendant from incriminating himself or herself by letting out information that may be misconstrued or held against him/her in court. Under this, the Right to Remain Silent provides the defendant with the opportunity not to say anything that may directly or indirectly incriminate them. Additionally, the Right to Double Jeopardy ensures that a defendant is not tried for the same crime CITATION Tra15 l 16393 (Tran, 2015).
The four rights under the Sixth Amendment protect the defendant in court. They are the Right to Legal Representation, under which a lawyer will be provided for the defendant in case the latter cannot afford one CITATION Tra15 l 16393 (Tran, 2015). The Right to a Speedy Trial dictates that the defendant has to be present for any proceedings in the trial at all times. No decisions in the court can be taken in his/her absence. Additionally, defendants may not be detained for long periods unless their crime has been affirmed CITATION New14 l 16393 (Newbauer & Fradella, 2014). The Right to a Public Jury Trial ensures a defendant a fair chance by appearing before a public jury. Lastly, the Right to Confront Witnesses states that a defendant is allowed an appeal against, or ask to double-check, any testimony, statements, and evidence presented against him/her by the witnesses in court. This ensures the reliability of the witnesses and transparency of the trial CITATION Tra15 l 16393 (Tran, 2015).
The Eighth Amendment further provides two rights for the defendant: the Right to a Reasonable Bail, which allows the defendant to leave detention by posting a reasonable bail, proportionate to the type of crime; and the Right to not be Subjected to cruel and Unusual Punishment, that includes basic medical care, and sentences proportionate to the severity of the crime CITATION Tra15 l 16393 (Tran, 2015).
Knowing that Barker had already been tried sixteen times, I would, as a judge CITATION Tra15 l 16393 (Tran, 2015)presiding over his case, want to sentence him at the earliest. While the crime he had been accused of is grave in its own composition, no defendant should have to wait more than five years to be sentenced in a court of law.
Additionally, I would also take notice of the discrepancies in the trial and sentencing of Silas Manning, the second accused, and weigh the effects of the same on the defendant Barker, who, having been returned from court sixteen times due to reasons sundry, must have been feeling the toil of the ordeal. The matter will also be explored in terms of prejudice from the court towards the defendant, which will include a thorough inspection of the previous continuances. Additionally, the defendant’s acute involvement in the case will be considered, along with his behavior during incarceration as well.
However, apart from considering the length between his indictment and trial, and the reasons for the same, I will also take note of the causes of no objections made at all the previous continuances in court. The same will also factor in the desired sentencing by the defendant.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Findlaw staff. (n.d.). Barker vs. Wingo. Retrieved October 1, 2015, from Findlaw: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/407/514.html
Newbauer, D. W., & Fradella, H. F. (2014). Chapter 5 – The Dynamics of Courthouse Justice . In D. W. Newbauer, & H. F. Fradella, America’s Courts and the Criminal Justice System (pp. 120-145). Wadsworth: Cengage Learning .
Tran, J. (2015, June 16). Rights of Criminal Defendants. Retrieved from Legal Match: http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/rights-of-criminal-defendants.html
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