WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court, placing new restrictions on the right to a speedy trial, ruled today that decade-old firearms charges against American Indian leader Dennis Banks and several colleagues can be reinstated.
In a 5-4 decision, the court said delays in pretrial appeals did not violate the defendants' right to a speedy trial because the appeals were justified and the defendants were not jailed or substantially restricted throughout the period.
The court also held that a 46-month period between one court's decision to dismiss the charges against the defendants and the government's successful appeal of that decision should be excluded from the length of delay considered under the speedy trial clause.
Crowded Court Reasoning
Writing for the court, Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. said, "While a deliberate attempt to delay the trial in order to hamper the defense would be weighed heavily against the government, a delay from overcrowded courts--as was the situation here--would be weighed less heavily."