PROCEEDING ON CERTIORARI Stephen Bridgforth, District Judge
H. Balderas, Attorney General Sri Mullis, Assistant Attorney
General Santa Fe, NM for Petitioner
Bennett J. Baur, Chief Public Defender Nina Lalevic,
Assistant Appellate Defender Santa Fe, NM for Respondent
BARBARA J. VIGIL, Justice.
The right to a speedy trial is guaranteed by the Sixth
Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article II,
Section 14 of the New Mexico Constitution. Defendant was
arrested on May 12, 2008, and charged with a number of
offenses relating to criminal sexual contact of a minor.
Prior to a mistrial on March 8, 2010, trial was delayed for a
number of reasons including a furlough affecting the New
Mexico Public Defender Department (Public Defender
Department). Two months later, on May 17-20, 2010, Defendant
was convicted of one count of interference with
communications and two counts of criminal sexual contact of a
minor. Defendant was incarcerated for the entire pretrial
Defendant appealed his convictions and the Court of Appeals
reversed on speedy trial grounds. State v. Ochoa,
2014-NMCA-065, ¶¶ 1, 25-26, 327 P.3d 1102. The
Court of Appeals determined that Defendant was prejudiced by
his two-year pretrial incarceration, reasoning that
"[t]his Court previously concluded that a delay of
twenty-two months prejudiced a defendant. Here, Defendant was
incarcerated even longer." Id. ¶ 23
We granted certiorari and reverse, applying the four-factor
balancing test from Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514,
530 (1972). We conclude that neither the length of delay,
reason for delay, nor assertion of the right to a speedy
trial weigh heavily in Defendant's favor. We presume that
Defendant suffered some prejudice as a result of his
continuous pretrial incarceration, but our presumption does
not outweigh the other three factors. See State v.
Garza, 2009-NMSC-038, ¶ 1, 212 P.3d 387 (holding
that a defendant must generally show particularized
prejudice). Thus, despite the obvious prejudice to Defendant,
his right to a speedy trial was not violated.
The Right to a Speedy Trial
In examining whether a defendant has been deprived of his
constitutional right to a speedy trial, we use the
four-factor test set forth in Barker, balancing the
length of delay, the reason for delay, the defendant's
assertion of the right to a speedy trial, and the prejudice
to the defendant. See 407 U.S. at 530. We defer to
the district court's factual findings in considering a
speedy trial claim, but weigh each factor de novo. State
v. Spearman, 2012-NMSC-023, ¶ 19, 283 P.3d 272.
The speedy trial analysis is not a rigid or mechanical
exercise, but rather "a difficult and sensitive
balancing process." See Barker, 407 U.S. at
533. The speedy trial right is "amorphous, slippery, and
necessarily relative." Vermont v. Brillon, 556
U.S. 81, 89 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citations
omitted). We consider the factors on a case-by-case basis.
See Barker, 407 U.S. at 533; see also
Garza, 2009-NMSC-038, ¶ 13 (stating that
Barker "necessarily compels courts to approach
speedy trial cases on an ad hoc basis").
We begin by setting forth the facts and circumstances
surrounding the delays in bringing Defendant to trial and the
role of each party in the delays. Barker, 407 U.S.
at 530 ("The approach we accept is a balancing test, in
which the conduct of both the prosecution and the defendant
are weighed."). Defendant was arrested on May 12, 2008
and tried just over two years later, on May 17-20, 2010.
Defendant was incarcerated for this entire period.
Trial was reset on multiple occasions. The first, November
10, 2008, was vacated because November 11, 2008 was a holiday
and the trial required a multi-day setting. The second,
December 17, 2008, was vacated when Defendant requested a
continuance to review evidence acquired in delayed witness
interviews. The third, March 4, 2009, was vacated due to a
pending motion. The fourth, May 26, 2009, was vacated
because it was incorrectly set for one day. The fifth,
October 27, 2009, was unexpectedly continued when the
judge's sister passed away.
Defendant moved to continue the sixth trial setting, January
13, 2010, because Governor Richardson ordered state employees
to cease work for five days, including the third day of
trial. The furlough reduced the budget of the Public Defender
Department due to a budget shortfall for fiscal year 2010.
Despite the furlough, this Court ordered public defenders to
appear for regularly scheduled court appearances. The
district court granted the continuance to ensure that defense
counsel had adequate support staff to prepare a defense.
Trial finally began on the seventh setting, March 8, 2010.
However, the district court granted a mistrial because a
juror made an inflammatory comment.
Over the course of the proceedings, the State filed three
petitions to extend the time to commence trial. See
Rule 5-604(B) NMRA (2008) ("For good cause shown, the
time for commencement of trial may be extended by the
district court . . . [by] six (6) months."). Defendant
opposed two out of three of the State's petitions, but
did not file substantive responses to any of them. Each of
the petitions was granted.
Defendant filed five demands for a speedy trial and four
motions to dismiss based on violation of the
right. In its ruling on the first motion to
dismiss, the district court found the case to be complex and
that the length of pretrial delay was less than the eighteen
months required to trigger the speedy trial analysis under
Garza. See 2009-NMSC-038, ¶ 2
(establishing the guideline as eighteen months for complex
cases). In each motion to dismiss, Defendant stated that the
length of pretrial incarceration was presumptively
prejudicial, he had suffered undue anxiety and concern, and
his defense was impaired by fading witness memories.
Defendant did not present evidence to support his prejudice
claims, but instead asserted that the State bore the burden
of proving the absence of prejudice, citing Salandre v.
State, 1991-NMSC-016, ¶¶ 25-28, 111 N.M. 422,
806 P.2d 562, holding modified by Garza,
2009-NMSC-038, ¶ 22.
Defendant was finally tried on May 17-20, 2010, after two
years of pretrial incarceration. On May 20, 2010, a jury
convicted Defendant of two counts of criminal sexual contact
of a minor and one count of interference with communications.
Defendant appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed,
holding that Defendant's right to a speedy trial was
violated. Ochoa, 2014-NMCA-065, ¶ 1. We granted
certiorari on two issues:
1)Whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding that [the
State denied Defendant] his constitutional right to a speedy
trial when the length and reasons for the delay did not weigh
heavily against [the State].
2)Whether the Court of Appeals erred in creating a
bright-line rule that pre-trial incarceration over twenty-two
months is unduly prejudicial even when [Defendant] failed to
make a particularized showing of prejudice.
the fluid, ad hoc approach of Barker to the facts of
the instant case, we agree with the Court of Appeals that
Defendant was prejudiced by his pretrial incarceration.
However, neither the length nor reason for delay weighs
heavily against the State. Therefore, we conclude that
Defendant's right to a speedy trial was not violated.
Length of Delay
The first factor, length of delay, is both the threshold
question in the speedy trial analysis and a factor to be
weighed with the other three Barker factors.
State v. Serros, 2016-NMSC-008, ¶ 22, 366 P.3d
1121. The Barker Court deferred to the states to
prescribe reasonable guidelines for bringing a case to trial.
407 U.S. at 523. This Court prescribed such guidelines in
Garza. See 2009-NMSC-038, ¶ 2. The
applicable guideline is dependent upon the complexity of the
case: twelve months for a simple case, fifteen months for an
intermediate case, and eighteen months for a complex case.
Consistent with Barker, this Court in Garza
emphasized that the guidelines are not bright-line tests.
See Barker, 407 U.S. at 523 ("We find no
constitutional basis for holding that the speedy trial right
can be quantified into a specified number of days or
months."); see also Garza, 2009-NMSC-038,
¶ 49 (explaining that the guidelines are not bright-line
tests). The guidelines are designed to prompt the district
court to conduct a speedy trial analysis, and do not dispose
of the claim itself. Id. ¶ 2. As explained in
Garza, it would be contrary to the flexible,
fact-specific nature of the Barker approach to
presume that there was a violation of the right based on the
length of delay alone. See Garza, 2009-NMSC-038,
¶ 13. The Barker Court "specifically
reject[ed] inflexible, bright-line approaches to analyzing a
speedy trial claim." Garza, 2009-NMSC-038,
¶ 13 (citing Barker, 407 U.S. at 529-30).
When the length of delay exceeds a guideline, it must be
weighed as one factor in determining whether there has been a
violation of the right to a speedy trial, Serros,
2016-NMSC-008, ¶ 22, and the burden of persuasion rests
on the State to demonstrate that, on balance, there was no
violation of the right to a speedy trial. Garza,
2009-NMSC-038, ¶ 22. As the delay lengthens, it weighs
increasingly in favor of the accused. Id. ¶ 24.
In other words, a delay barely crossing the guideline
"is of little help" to the defendant's claim,
while a delay of extraordinary length weighs heavily in favor
of the defendant. Serros, 2016-NMSC-008, ¶ 26.
We defer to the district court's finding of complexity,
which was supported by the number of charges and nature of
the allegations. See State v. Manzanares,
1996-NMSC-028, ¶ 9, 121 N.M. 798, 918 P.2d 714; see
also State v. Rojo, 1999-NMSC-001, ¶ 52, 126 N.M.
438, 971 P.2d 829 (explaining that the complexity of the case
is best determined by the district court, which must consider
both the nature and complexity of the crime). This was a
complex case which, under Garza, should have been
brought to trial within eighteen months. See
2009-NMSC-038, ¶ 2.
Defendant was arrested on May 12, 2008. Twenty-two months
later, the first trial resulted in a mistrial. This period
alone was sufficient to raise speedy trial concerns, unlike
cases in which the mistrial occurred within the speedy trial
guideline. See, e.g., State v. Castro,
2017-NMSC-027, ¶ 20, P.3d (noting that the mistrial
occurred within the prescribed period for a simple case). By
the time of the retrial on May 17-20, 2010, the case had been
pending for a total of two years; six months past the
Garza deadline. See 2009-NMSC-038, ¶
Nevertheless, while sufficient to trigger the speedy trial
analysis, the two-year delay was not extraordinary. See,
e.g., Serros, 2016-NMSC-008, ¶ 24 (holding
that a delay of four years and three months was extraordinary
and weighed heavily in the defendant's favor); see
also Doggett v. United States, 505 U.S. 647 (1992),
657-58 (describing an eight and one-half year delay between
the defendant's indictment and arrest as extraordinary).
Thus, the length of delay weighs only slightly against the
B.Reason for ...