The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that Roderick Taylor will continue to serve out his second-degree murder sentence for strangling Dominique Taylor in a Woodbine Street apartment in 2006 and dumping her body in Franklin Park - with her fingertips and face burned off - essentially because his lawyer didn't protest vociferously enough over continuing prosecution delays in producing evidence before his trial.
Taylor had sought to have his verdict tossed because his trial started long after the year deadline in Massachusetts for the start of a trial after somebody has been arraigned.
Taylor's attorney filed a motion to dismiss the case 614 days after his arraignment, when he had yet to come to trial. The Suffolk County District Attorney's office convinced a judge that "at least 249 days were excludable from the speedy trial
calculation" because they were delays that Taylor and his attorney either agreed to or which might have benefited him, the SJC wrote.
And that's where Taylor's troubles under his constitutional right to a speedy trial arose, the court ruled. Although his attorney said in court that Taylor was not waiving his speedy-trial rights every time prosecutors sought another delay in handing over "discovery" evidence, that wasn't enough, the state's highest court ruled:
The judge correctly concluded that defense counsel cannot preserve a defendant's [speedy-trial] rights simply by stating that those rights are not waived. A defendant must instead explicitly and formally object, on the record, to each and every proposed continuance or delay.
The court elucidates:
Of the twenty-three continuances in his case, sixteen were "by agreement"; at one hearing, defense counsel agreed to reschedule the presumptive trial date from August 27, 2007, to February 7, 2008. The defendant invoked rule 36 on just six occasions and lodged only one formal objection. Indeed, defense counsel conceded at the hearing on the rule 36 motion that he "didn't [object] every single time" the Commonwealth requested a continuance. The defendant nevertheless contends that he sufficiently preserved his speedy trial rights by informing the prosecutor and the court that his agreement to various continuances did not constitute a waiver of rule 36. Our jurisprudence does not support this construction of the rule. A defendant may not simultaneously agree to a continuance and assert his rule 36 rights, even if he or she states, as counsel did here, that such agreement is not a waiver. In light of the defendant's failure to object to each requested continuance, the judge properly concluded that counsel's efforts to avoid having acquiesced in any delay amounted to an impermissible "blanket objection."
But, the court continued, even though Taylor will remain in prison, that doesn't leave the DA's office off the hook, because each time prosecutors try to delay handing over evidence, a defendant is put in the difficult position of deciding between seeking his speedy-trial rights or gaining access to evidence to which he is also entitled. And, in fact, the judge in Taylor's case held several hearings on his lawyer's attempts to get prosecutors to hand over all the evidence.
We address this untenable situation by concluding that the time it takes to resolve a [discovery] motion brought to compel mandatory discovery should not, as at present, automatically be excluded from the speedy trial calculus. Instead, the judge who hears such a motion must determine on a case-by-case basis whether delays resulting from its resolution fairly should count towards the Commonwealth's twelve-month timeline.