Monday, May 09, 2011

Delay In Mutli-Defendant Drug Case Doesn't Violate STA or Due Process

US v. Shealey: Shealey was initially charged, along with several codefendants, with several counts related to the distribution of drugs. As trial neared - already delayed by on continuance - one of Shealey's codefendants sought further delay, based on a change of counsel and the late delivery of substantial discovery by the Government. Shealey objected to the continuance and asked for his trial to be severed from the others and to proceed without delay. That motion was denied. After rejecting a plea bargain, Shealey was further charged with two counts of money laundering. He was convicted on all counts at trial and sentenced to life in prison.

On appeal, Shealey raised several arguments challenging his conviction and sentence, all of which the Fourth Circuit rejected. First, Shealey argued that the district court erred by dismissing his motion to sever, particularly given that numerous codefendants who testified at his trial only pleaded guilty after the original trial date had passed. The court disagreed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion and that Shealey's argument for why he was harmed is not an injury to a "specific trial right" or other prejudice that resulted from a joint trial. Second, Shealey argued that the late filing of the superseding indictment against him violated his right to due process because it gave the Government time to negotiate plea bargains with other defendants/witnesses. The court disagreed, holding that Shealey could not point to any concrete prejudice he suffered as a result. Finally, Shealey argued that his life sentence was substantively unreasonable. The court disagreed, noting his criminal history and "voluminous quantities of drugs" involved.

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