Thursday, June 30, 2011
C.A. Upholds Delay in Trial of Defendant Quarantined With Virus
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Good cause for the delay of trial exists when an incarcerated criminal defendant is under quarantine to prevent the spread of infectious disease, this district’s Court of Appeal has ruled.
“Public health concerns trump the right to a speedy trial,” Div. Six said Tuesday in an opinion by Justice Kenneth R. Yegan.
The issue arose in an appeal by Jesse Tucker, challenging his conviction, by jury, of grand theft of an automobile and receiving stolen property.
Tucker’s case was called for trial on Dec. 18, 2009, and again on the last day for trial, Dec. 21. Tucker did not appear on either occasion because he was in custody at a correctional facility that was under quarantine because a prisoner had contracted the H1N1 flu virus.
The case was called again for trial a week later, but Tucker moved to dismiss based on the violation of his speedy trial rights. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David W. Stuart denied the motion, noting two prior judges had found good cause for continuances based on the medical necessity of the quarantine.
Yegan, in his decision for the appellate panel, noted that “courts in other states have confronted similar situations and have uniformly agreed that the right to a speedy trial is not violated where the trial date is delayed due to a medical quarantine.”
Joined by Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert and Justice Steven Z. Perren, Yegan reasoned “[w]e cannot say that the trial court abused its discretion” in delaying the proceedings against Tucker.
“It was not an abuse of discretion for these trial court judges to rely on representations from their bailiffs concerning the reason for appellant’s absence,” Yegan said, “[n]or was it arbitrary or capricious for these trial court judges to conclude that the sheriff’s department acted in good faith when it made the decision to quarantine the facility, to prevent the spread of a dangerous, infectious disease during a global pandemic.”
The justice noted the quarantine was consistent with the guidelines for correctional facilities,” and there was “no suggestion that the seven-day delay was orchestrated to benefit the prosecution or that it prejudiced the defense in any way.”
In the unpublished portion of the decision, Yegan said Tucker was entitled to an increase in his pre-sentence local good conduct credits based on the retroactive application of Penal Code Sec. 4019.
The attorneys on the case, People v. Tucker, 11 S.O.S. 3504, were Eureka practitioner Alan Mason, under appointment, and Deputy Attorneys General Yun K. Lee and Viet H. Nguyen.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company