The Supreme Court Friday limited the power of federal judges to dismiss criminal charges when prosecutors violate a law requiring speedy trial of defendants.
In a 6-3 ruling, the court reinstated the indictment in Seattle of Larry Lee Taylor, who is accused of cocaine trafficking.Justice Harry A. Blackmun, writing for the court, said the presiding judge in the case abused her authority by failing to analyze adequately all the factors that contributed to delay in bringing Taylor to trial.
"Seemingly ignored were the brevity of the delay and the consequential lack of prejudice to (Taylor), as well as (Taylor's) own illicit contribution to the delay," Blackmun said.
He said the judge apparently threw out the case "in order to send a strong message to the government that unexcused delays will not be tolerated. That factor alone . . . does not suffice to justify barring reprosecution in light of all the other circumstances present."
The ruling is a victory for the Reagan administration, which argued for reinstatement of the indictment.
Under the Speedy Trial Act of 1974 any criminal defendant in federal court must be brought to trial within 70 days of being indicted. If not, the indictment can be dismissed.