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COMMONWEALTH v. HAMILTON (11/22/72)

decided: November 22, 1972.

COMMONWEALTH, APPELLANT,
v.
HAMILTON



Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Aug. T., 1971, No. 531, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Leonard C. Hamilton.

COUNSEL

Carolyn E. Temin, Assistant District Attorney, with her Milton M. Stein, Assistant District Attorney, James D. Crawford, Deputy District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Peter A. Galante, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Nix.

Author: Nix

[ 449 Pa. Page 298]

On November 19, 1965, Rudolph Frazier was found shot to death in the City of Philadelphia. Initial police investigation led authorities to believe that Leonard Curtis Hamilton was the principal suspect and a warrant was obtained for his arrest. Subsequently, Hamilton was found to be incarcerated in Spartansburg, South Carolina, having been charged with robbery and murder in that jurisdiction. On November 30, 1965, Sergeant Francis Brennan of the Philadelphia Police Department went to Spartansburg to interview Hamilton. After obtaining his statement, Sergeant Brennan lodged an arrest detainer against Hamilton charging him with murder.

Nothing further was done in the case until March of 1971 when Hamilton initiated proceedings to remove the detainer. As a result he was brought back to Philadelphia and on July 13, 1971, counsel was appointed to represent him. Following a preliminary hearing, Hamilton

[ 449 Pa. Page 299]

    was indicted for murder on August 25, 1971, and counsel then filed a petition to dismiss the indictment claiming that the Commonwealth had denied him his constitutional right to a speedy trial. Subsequently, a hearing was held and on September 27, 1971, Hamilton's application to quash the indictment was granted. The Commonwealth appeals.

I. Constitutional Limitations of the Right to a Speedy Trial

Although it is well settled that the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments require a state to provide every defendant a speedy trial, Dickey v. Florida, 398 U.S. 30 (1970); Smith v. Hooey, 393 U.S. 374 (1969); Klopfer v. North Carolina, 386 U.S. 213 (1967), the United States Supreme Court has only recently identified with specificity the factors to be balanced in determining whether a particular defendant's right has been denied in this regard. Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 92 S. Ct. 2182 (1972). The considerations are: the length of the delay; the reason for the delay; the defendant's assertion of his right; and the prejudice to the defendant. A balancing of these factors in the instant case causes us to conclude that appellee was denied a speedy trial.

A. Length of the Delay

The delay in this case must be computed from the time when Commonwealth authorities lodged a detainer against the appellee in November, 1965, to the time when appellee petitioned to dismiss the indictment in September, 1971 -- a period of almost six years. Such an appalling delay is a convincing indication that appellee's right was violated. At the very least, it is long

[ 449 Pa. Page 300]

    enough to trigger an inquiry into the other factors. 407 U.S. at ...


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