Supreme Court Dismissal of Speedy Trial Case Lets States ‘Off the Hook’

On April 29, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed cert as improvidently granted in the case of Boyer v. Louisiana. Jonathan Boyer languished in jail for five years awaiting trial on capital charges, because the state of Louisiana refused to provide adequate funding to its indigent defense system.  A Louisiana appeals court acknowledged that the five year delay would infringe on Mr. Boyer’s constitutional right to a speedy trial, but refused to attribute the delay to the state, essentially letting Louisiana off the hook for the logical consequences of its refusal to adequately fund indigent defense.

TCP President Virginia Sloan lamented the decision, explaining, “With the national indigent defense crisis only worsening, the Supreme Court missed an opportunity to make clear that states have a duty to ensure adequate funding, and when states fail in that duty, inevitably resulting in delays, there are consequences.” The Court’s 5-to-4 vote dismissing the case leaves the Louisiana appeals court’s decision in place, and allows the state to continue to benefit from its refusal to adequately fund its indigent defense system, she said.

Last year, TCP filed an amicus brief in support of Boyer’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.  We are grateful to the Skadden law firm for representing us in this case.

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