Jonathan Boyer languished in jail for five years awaiting trial on capital charges, without an attorney, because the state of Louisiana refused to provide adequate funding to its indigent defense system. Prosecutors finally dropped the capital charges and indicted Mr. Boyer for second degree murder, and two year later Mr. Boyer had his day in court. While a Louisiana appeals court acknowledged that the five year delay would implicate Mr. Boyer’s constitutional right to a speedy trial, it refused to attribute the delay to the state, ruling that indigent defense funding failures were outside the control of the state. The decision essentially let the state off the hook for the logical consequences of its refusal to adequately fund indigent defense.
On November 26, TCP filed an amicus brief in support of Mr. Boyer’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the generous help of pro bono counsel at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. The brief argues that a state must be held responsible for the failure to fund counsel for an indigent capital defendant when determining whether there has been a violation of the defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial.