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Louisiana Supreme Court Vacates Murder Conviction for Speedy Trial Violation

After Nicholas Revish was convicted of second-degree murder and attempted murder and was sentenced to life in prison, his conviction was vacated upon appeal in 2015 when the court found his counsel was constitutionally ineffective. The state opted to retry Revish and that began yet another round of appeals.

This time, the challenge was brought by the State, after the district court ruled that the State had violated Revish’s rights under the speedy trial rules and tossed the indictment. The State appealed, and the Court of Appeal sided with the State, reversing the district court’s ruling and remanding for a new trial. Revish then petitioned the Louisiana Supreme Court, which agreed to hear his appeal.

Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure provides rules for when the State must bring a defendant to trial or retrial. For an original trial, there’s a two-year limit for non-capital felonies. La.C.Cr.P. 578. A retrial, however, must begin “within one year from the date the new trial is granted” or within the original two-year period, whichever is longer. La.C.Cr.P. 582.

The State argued that the two-year limit began anew from the date of the new trial order. After “altering its tactics” in the Court of Appeal with new arguments not raised in the lower court, the Court of Appeal ruled that the State had one year from the date the new trial was ordered and then considered a sua sponte order from the trial court the same as a “continuance” that stopped the speedy trial clock. That’s the reason the State had more time to retry Revish, the court said.

The Supreme Court disagreed. “The state mismanaged this prosecution,” the Court admonished. They had the “heavy burden of demonstrating that time was either interrupted or suspended,” the Court explained. The district court’s sua sponte order that briefly interrupted the speedy trial clock was not initiated by Revish, did not benefit him, was not agreed to by him, and did not appear to have anything to do with him at all, the Court said. “It was incumbent on the state to inform the district court of time remaining to commence trial,” not Revish’s, and “the state failed in its duty to do so,” the Court concluded.

The Supreme Court found that because the State raised issues for the first time on appeal, the Court of Appeal erred in even considering the issue. But the Court addressed the issue to settle it and rejected the State’s argument that a district court’s sua sponte order extends the speedy trial clock.

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Related legal case

State v. Revish



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