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United States v. Cooper

February 27, 2007

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JERRY WAYNE COOPER



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Curtis L. Collier

ORDER

Before the Court are two motions: Defendant Jerry Cooper's ("Defendant") motion to continue the trial date and re-establish the scheduling order (Court File No. 50) and the Government's motion for a hearing on Defendant's motion to continue (Court File No. 56). After considering the arguments of counsel, the Court will GRANT Defendant's request to continue the trial date and re-set the deadline for requesting jury instructions but will DENY Defendant's request to re-set the deadline for filing motions and meeting for the final pretrial conference. Since the Court will GRANT in part and DENY in part Defendant's motion, the Court necessarily will DENY the Government's motion. The Court will address each motion in turn.

I. Defendant's Motion to Continue

This is Defendant's third request for a continuance. The Court granted the first request (Court File No. 23) but denied the second request (Court File No. 49). In denying the second request, the Court indicated it would not favorably consider additional requests for continuances.

Subsequent to that decision, Defendant was involved in a single-vehicle car accident and suffered bodily injuries. Needless to say, this was an unanticipated occurrence and could not have been foreseen by the parties or the Court. Because of that accident and resulting injuries, Defendant now requests the Court to continue the current trial date of March 5, 2007 to the first week of July and to enter a new scheduling order, including new deadlines for filing motions, requesting jury instructions, and meeting for the final pretrial conference. Attached to the motion were pictures of the scene of the car accident Defendant was involved in, pictures of the injuries he suffered as a result of the accident, and a letter from his physician describing his physical condition. The Government filed a response to Defendant's motion, agreeing a continuance of 12 weeks would be in the best interest of justice (Court File No. 51). Defendant, in turn, filed a reply to the Government's response requesting a continuance of at least 16 weeks to allow counsel time to work with the defendant before this case goes to trial (Court File No. 53).

As the Court stated in its last decision denying Defendant's motion to continue, the Court enjoys broad discretion in deciding this motion. United States v. Hall, 200 F.3d 962, 964 (6th Cir. 2000). However, the Court must tether its discretion to the United States Constitution and the Speedy Trial Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3161-3173. A constitutional violation occurs if the Court denies a motion to continue "in the face of a justifiable request for delay." Hall, 200 F.3d at 964 (quoting United States v. King, 127 F.3d 483, 486 (6th Cir 1997)).

A criminal prosecution is much more than just litigation between the prosecution and the particular defendant. A criminal prosecution is a matter of great public importance and interest. For this reason, the public's interest in having criminal cases resolved in a speedy fashion must always be considered.

The interest of the public is codified in the Speedy Trial Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3161 to 3173. The Speedy Trial Act specifies time limits in which defendants must be tried. 18 U.S.C. § 3161(c)(1).

If the time limits are not followed, the Speedy Trial Act mandates dismissal of the information or indictment. Before granting any motion to continue a trial in a criminal case, the Court must consider the impact granting such a request would have on the Speedy Trial Act time limits. The Speedy Trial Act authorizes the Court to grant delays where the Court finds that the ends of justice served by granting the continuance outweigh the best interests of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial. 18 U.S.C. 3161(h)(8)(A).*fn1 Section 3161(h)(8)(A) requires the Court make a finding after carefully considering and balancing multiple factors, including those factors listed in that section.

After carefully considering and balancing multiple factors, including the factors listed in § 3161(h)(8)(A), the Court finds a continuance is warranted. On February 7, 2007, Defendant was involved in a single-vehicle car accident on Interstate 24. Defendant suffered multiple injuries, including a cerebral concussion, multiple rib fractures, chest wall contusions, and an extensive de-gloving injury of the left forearm and hand. See Court File No. 50, Attachment #3, Letter from Vanderbilt University Medical Center. According to his physician, Defendant "is unable to properly concentrate for a trial that would require prolonged periods of time for questioning and interactions," and Defendant "will not be ready for this type of interaction for at least 6-8 additional weeks." Id. These facts and circumstances support a continuance because Defendant, in his current condition, would be unable to assist his counsel in preparing this case for trial and during trial. Such unavailability could result in prejudice to the defendant and a miscarriage of justice. Thus, the Court finds the ends of justice served by granting a continuance outweigh the best interests of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial.

Since the physician's letter states Defendant should be ready to assist in his defense in at least six to eight weeks, the Court will continue the trial until Monday, June 4, 2007. In setting this new trial date, the Court considered not only the physician's letter but also the Defendant's and Government's arguments. The date of the physician's letter was February 13, 2007, which would be the starting point from which the Court would start to count the number of weeks Defendant needs to recuperate. Counting from February 13, 2007 to June 4, 2007, Defendant has a time frame of sixteen weeks before this case is set to go to trial, which is plenty of time to recuperate and assist his counsel with his defense.

Although the Court agrees a continuance is warranted, there is no need to re-establish the deadlines for filing motions since that deadline passed on January 8, 2007, almost a full month before Defendant's accident. Likewise, there is no need to hold another final pretrial conference. On February 15, 2007, the magistrate judge held a final pretrial conference for this case, and both parties were allowed to address any issues affecting trial. Since the motions deadline is not being extended, there would be no new issues to discuss, and thus, no need to hold another conference. In reviewing the Court's previous order granting Defendant's first motion to continue (Court File No. 23), the Court realized it did not re-set the deadline for requesting jury instructions. Therefore, the Court will re-set that deadline at this time. All proposed jury instructions are due on or before Monday, May 21, 2007.

Therefore, the Court GRANTS Defendant's request to continue the trial date and re-set the deadline for requesting jury instructions but DENIES Defendant's request to re-set the deadline for filing motions and ...


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