The Supreme Court ruling Boyer v. Louisiana is available in Adobe .pdf format.
"Divided Supreme Court dismisses Louisiana convict’s appeal over cause of 7-year trial delay," is the AP report, via the Washington Post.
A sharply divided Supreme Court dismissed an appeal Monday from a Louisiana man who claimed that most of a seven-year delay between his arrest and murder trial was the result of a breakdown in the state’s system for paying defense lawyers in death penalty cases.
The court’s conservative justices prevailed in a 5-4 vote to say they should never have taken the case of Jonathan Edward Boyer, who eventually was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance for parole. The outcome leaves his conviction and sentence in place.
The case was argued in January to address whether a state’s failure to pay lawyers for indigent defendants can violate the Constitution’s guarantee of a speedy trial.
In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Boyer’s case is illustrative of systemic problems in Louisiana and the court should have ruled in his favor.
The justices occasionally agree to take up a case and then think better of it after the case is argued. When that happens, there is no decision from the high court and the lower court ruling that was appealed is allowed to remain in place.
The New York Times report is, "Supreme Court Backs State Restrictions on Who Can Ask for Information," by Adam Liptak. The headline refers to another case decided by the Court.
A January argument that was the occasion for Justice Clarence Thomas’s first remark from the bench in almost seven years failed on Monday to produce a decision. The justices dismissed the case, Boyer v. Louisiana, No. 11-9953, as improvidently granted.
The court offered no opinion explaining the move, but seven justices debated its wisdom. In a concurrence, Justice Alito, joined by Justices Thomas and Antonin Scalia, said the court had accepted the case on a mistaken understanding of the facts.
The question the justices had agreed to decide was “whether a state’s failure to fund counsel for an indigent defendant for five years” in a capital case “should be weighted against the state for speedy trial purposes.” Justice Alito wrote that it turned out that “the single largest share of the delay in this case was the direct result of defense requests for continuances.”
The delay, moreover, seemed to assist the defendant, Jonathan E. Boyer, who was convicted of only second-degree murder despite overwhelming evidence that he had robbed and killed a driver who had picked him up while he was hitchhiking.
In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan, said the case would have provided an important opportunity for the Supreme Court to instruct states “that they have an obligation to protect a defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial.”
Justice Sotomayor said there were “systemic problems in Louisiana,” adding that “conditions of this kind cannot persist without endangering constitutional rights.”
At the Atlantic, Andrew Cohen asks, "Do Louisianans Have the Right to a Speedy Trial?" Here's the beginning:
There has been for decades now an ideological split at the United States Supreme Court over the Sixth Amendment's right to a speedy trial -- one of the most basic of due process rights. Court conservatives have successfully limited the scope of the right by justifying and forgiving unconscionable delays in bringing criminal defendants to trial. And the Court's progressives, outnumbered now for a generation, have complained not just about the unjust results of those cases but about the indigent defense systems which have fostered trial delays in the first place.
And so it is again. On Monday, in a case styled Boyer v. Louisiana, none of the Court's five conservative justices were willing to come to the aid of a man who had to wait seven years between his arrest and his trial because of a "funding crisis" within Louisiana's indigent defense program. In fact, those five justices refused even to render a ruling on the merits of the matter, instead deciding after oral argument and all the briefing in the case that their earlier decision to accept the matter for review was "improvident."