Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Lawrence

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

December 6, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
KOYODE LAWRENCE

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY F. ALTAL, District Judge.

This case is before the Court on Defendant Koyode Lawrence's ("Defendant" or "Lawrence") Amended Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Afford a Speedy Trial [Doc. # 516] ("Motion to Dismiss"). The United States filed a Response to the Motion to Dismiss [Doc. # 518], to which Lawrence filed a Reply [Doc. # 519]. Having reviewed the parties' briefing and the applicable legal authorities, the Court denies Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

I. BACKGROUND

Lawrence, along with ten co-defendants, was indicted in this Court on November 19, 2003, on charges of conspiracy to import heroin and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin [Doc. # 1]. A warrant was subsequently issued for Lawrence's arrest [Doc. # 5]. Lawrence, a Nigerian national, at that time lived in Nigeria. On November 25, 2003, the United States Department of State ("U.S. State Department") cabled a letter to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, asking the Embassy to communicate to the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs ("Nigerian Ministry") the U.S. State Department's request for Lawrence's arrest. Declaration of Timothy G.E. Hammer [Doc. # 516-2] ("Hammer Decl."), ¶ 11. Lawrence was arrested by Nigerian authorities on March 16, 2004. Id., ¶ 14.

Lawrence thereafter spent more than 9 years in Nigerian custody. On July 2, 2013, the Nigerian National Drug Law Enforcement Agency ("NDLEA") surrendered Lawrence to a United States Homeland Security Investigations ("HSI") Special Agent. Id., ¶ 89. Lawrence arrived in Houston, Texas, the following day, id., ¶ 90, and was arraigned before a Magistrate Judge on July 9, 2013 [Doc. # 469].

II. MOTION TO DISMISS INDICTMENT

Lawrence moves this Court for an order to dismiss his indictment for lack of a speedy trial [Doc. # 516]. In his motion, Lawrence argues that, because of the 9½ year gap between his indictment (in November 2003) and his arraignment (in July 2013), continued prosecution of him by the United States violates the Speedy Trial Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution.[1] The United States opposes the motion.

Lawrence contends that the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial has been violated. The U.S. Constitution guarantees that "the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial..." U.S. Constitution, Amend. VI.[2] "In analyzing a Sixth Amendment speedy trial claim, we balance, among other relevant circumstances, (1) the length of the delay; (2) the reason for the delay; (3) whether the defendant timely asserted his right; and (4) any prejudice resulting to the defendant because of the delay." United States v. Bieganowski, 313 F.3d 264, 284 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972)). In assessing these factors the Court "balances [them] by weighing the first three Barker factors... against any prejudice suffered by the defendant due to the delay in prosecution." United States v. Molina-Solorio, 577 F.3d 300, 304 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting United States v. Serna-Villareal, 352 F.3d 225, 230-31 (5th Cir. 2003)).

In general, under the Barker analysis, a defendant has the burden to demonstrate prejudice from delay of his trial. Serna-Villareal, 352 F.3d at 230. In such cases, a defendant must show "actual prejudice" in order to state a claim for a Sixth Amendment violation. Id. at 231. However, "a defendant can be relieved from bearing this burden in circumstances where the first three Barker factors weigh so heavily in favor of the defendant that prejudice is to be presumed." Id. (citing Robinson v. Whitley, 2 F.3d 562, 570 (5th Cir. 1993)). Once prejudice is presumed, a defendant is entitled to relief unless the government can show that "the presumption is extenuated" or "rebuts the presumption with evidence." Id.

The Court must first consider the "length of the delay." Doggett v. United States, 505 U.S. 647, 651 (1992) (noting that length of delay must be significant enough "[s]imply to trigger a speedy trial analysis"); see also Laws v. Stephens, ___ F.App'x ___, 2013 WL 3654551, at *3 (5th Cir. July 16, 2013) (describing the first Barker factor as a "threshold requirement"). If the delay between indictment and trial is greater than 1 year, the Court must "undertake[] a full Barker analysis, looking to the first three factors to decide whether prejudice will be presumed." Molina-Solorio, 577 F.3d at 304; Robinson v. Whitley, 2 F.3d 562, 568 (5th Cir. 1993) (stating that the Fifth Circuit "generally requires a delay of one year to trigger speedy trial analysis"). Here, the delay between Lawrence's indictment (on November 19, 2003) and his arraignment (on July 9, 2013) was far greater than a year. Thus, the Court turns to the Barker factors.

A. Length of the Delay

The first Barker factor-the length of delay-tilts in Lawrence's favor.[3] The 9½ year delay here is extraordinarily lengthy (though not without precedent). As the Fifth Circuit has observed, "[o]ne lesson from Doggett is that the longer the delay, the greater the presumption of prejudice." United States v. Bergfeld, 280 F.3d 486, 488 (5th Cir. 2002). Numerous courts have found similar, or even shorter, delays weigh in a defendant's favor. See, e.g., Doggett, 505 U.S. at 652 (8½-year delay); Molina-Solorio, 577 F.3d at 305 (nearly 10-year delay); Bergfeld, 280 F.3d at 489 (over 5year delay).

B. Reason for the Delay

While no factor alone is dispositive, the Supreme Court has observed that the second Barker factor-the reason for the delay-is "[t]he flag all litigants seek to capture." United States v. Loud Hawk, 474 U.S. 302, 315 (1986); see also United States v. Heshelman, 521 F.App'x 501, 505-06 (6th Cir. 2013) (citing Loud Hawk ). "Prejudice will never be presumed where the Government has pursued the defendant with reasonable ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.