The opinion of the court was delivered by: Donetta W. Ambrose Senior Judge, U.S. District Court
In this criminal matter, as directed by the Court of Appeals, I held an evidentiary hearing on March 23 and 26, 2012, limited to the question of Defendant's claim that counsel was ineffective with respect to his speedy trial rights. Upon consideration of the evidence offered at the hearing, and the parties' submissions, I will grant Defendant's Motion.
Relief is available under Section 2255 only under exceptional circumstances, when the claimed errors of law are "a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice," or "an omission inconsistent with the rudimentary demands of fair procedure." Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 428, 82 S. Ct. 468, 7 L. Ed. 2d 417 (1962).
B. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Under applicable standards, Defendant must meet a two-pronged test: "(1) that counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness; and (2) that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's error, the result would have been different." Rolan v. Vaughn, 445 F.3d 671, 681 (3d Cir. 2006). These standards apply to both appellate and trial counsel. Lusick v. Palakovich, 270 Fed. Appx. 108, 110 (3d Cir. 2008).
To meet the first prong, a defendant must first show that counsel's performance fell below "the wide range of professionally competent assistance." Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 104 S. Ct. 2052, 80 L. Ed. 2d 674. Counsel's conduct must be assessed according to the facts of the particular case, viewed as of the time of counsel's conduct. Id. at 689. To meet the prejudice prong, the pertinent question is "whether there is a reasonable probability that, absent the errors," the result would have been different. Id. at 695; see also United States v. Gray, 878 F.2d 702, 709-13 (3d Cir. 1989). The prejudice prong of Strickland rests on "whether counsel's deficient performance renders the result of the . . . proceeding fundamentally unfair," or strips the defendant of a "substantive or procedural right to which the law entitles him." Id. at 844.
II. SIXTH AMENDMENT SPEEDY TRIAL RIGHTS
In order to evaluate whether counsel was ineffective in failing to raise a speedy trial challenge, and whether Defendant was prejudiced by any such failure, I must first assess the substantive merits of such a challenge.
The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution provides that "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial." In Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 530-33, 92 S. Ct. 2182, 33 L. Ed. 2d 101 (1972), the Supreme Court identified four factors to weigh when considering whether that right has been violated: the length of delay; the reason for the delay; defendant's assertion of his right; and prejudice to the defendant.
First, therefore, I must assess the length of the delay. Generally speaking, in a case such as this, delay is measured from the date of indictment until the start of trial. United States v. Battis, 589 F.3d 673, 678 (3d Cir. 2009). In this case, Defendant was first named in a superseding indictment on July 15, 2004. He was declared a fugitive on June 30, 2005. He was not arrested until October 7, 2008, and was brought to trial on May 12, 2009. Thus, there was a delay of approximately four and a half years between indictment and trial. This factor, therefore, weighs heavily against the Government.
Second, I address the reason for the delay. A neutral reason for the delay, such as negligence, weighs against the Government; in contrast, a delay caused by the defense weighs against the Defendant. Battis, at 680. Because it is the Government's duty to bring a defendant to trial, the "ultimate responsibility for such circumstances [as ...