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Missouri Supreme Court Orders Dismissal of Pending Charges Where Trial Court Failed to Bring Prisoner to Trial Within 180-Day Limitations Period Provided for in ‘Interstate Agreement on Detainers’

by Douglas Ankney

The Supreme Court of Missouri made permanent its grant of a temporary writ of prohibition and ordered dismissal of the charges pending against Steven Wishom after the Jefferson Circuit Court failed to bring Wishom to trial on those charges within the 180-day limitations period of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (“IAD”).

In February 2022, while Wishom was serving sentences on unrelated offenses at a federal prison in Kentucky, a detainer was lodged against him based upon a warrant for his arrest in St. Louis, Missouri, on rape and sodomy charges. Pursuant to the IAD, Wishom filed a request to dispose of those charges, and his request was received by the circuit court and the state of Missouri (“State”) on April 14, 2022.

On April 20, 2022, the State sent the federal prison a form titled “IAD/STATE WRIT—PROSECUTOR’S CERTIFICATION” (“IAD Form”), requesting temporary custody of Wishom. The prosecutor checked a box on the IAD Form that stated: “I, [Assistant Circuit Attorney], hereby request temporary custody of Steven Wishom via IAD.”

Officials at the federal penitentiary then sent a certificate of Wishom’s prisoner status to the State, indicating the length of his federal sentence, the time already served, the time remaining to be served on his sentence, the amount of good time he had earned, the time of parole eligibility, and any decision of the parole agency governing his federal sentence (“Status Certificate”).

The State received custody of Wishom on June 8, 2022, and after a continuance by retained defense counsel, a hearing was held on June 21, 2022, where the trial court determined Wishom was indigent and appointed him a public defender. At this hearing, the State informed the trial court that the IAD’s 180-day deadline required Wishom’s charges to be disposed of by October 23, 2022. The State also moved to compel Wishom to provide a biological sample for DNA testing. The court set a trial date for October 17, 2022, and scheduled a hearing on the State’s motion.

On June 23, 2022, a public defender filed objections to the motion to compel and within the motion informed the court that October 11, 2022, was in fact the IAD deadline. The court entered an order sustaining the motion to compel and rescheduled Wishom’s trial to October 11, 2022.

On October 11, 2022, both parties appeared in court ready for trial. But the trial court, on its own accord, continued the case on the ground that, after seating juries in two other non-IAD trials, the court failed to secure a jury panel for Wishom’s case.

On October 14, 2022, Wishom filed a motion to dismiss because the court had failed to dispose of the case within 180 days. At a hearing on the motion to dismiss on October 18, 2022, the State conceded Wishom “did do everything he was supposed to do” to comply with the IAD. But the court faulted Wishom for not requesting to be put in the circuit court’s “priority list” for October 11 and denied the motion to dismiss, finding “good cause for the continuance as there was not a jury panel available.” The case was set for trial on October 31, 2022, but on that date, the trial court again continued the case, on its own accord, until January 30, 2023.

On January 27, 2023, Wishom sought a writ of prohibition in the Missouri Supreme Court, prohibiting the circuit court from taking any further action in the matter except for entering an order dismissing the charges. The Missouri Supreme Court issued a preliminary writ and directed the circuit court to show cause why a permanent writ should not issue.

The Court observed the “writ of prohibition is an ‘extraordinary remedy’ and is appropriate: (1) to prevent the usurpation of judicial power when a lower court lacks authority or jurisdiction; (2) to remedy an excess of authority, jurisdiction or abuse of discretion where the lower court lacks the power to act as intended; or (3) where a party may suffer irreparable harm if relief is not granted.” State ex rel. T.J. v. Cundiff, 632 S.W.3d 353 (Mo. 2021) (en banc). The writ of prohibition has been issued to prevent a circuit court from proceeding in a case when the IAD’s 180-day deadline had expired. State ex rel. Suitor, v. Stremel, 968 S.W.2d 221 (Mo. Ct. App. 1998).

A detainer is “a request filed by a criminal justice agency with the institution in which a prisoner is incarcerated, asking the institution either to hold the prisoner for the agency or to notify the agency when release of the prisoner is imminent.” Farish v. Mo. Dep’t of Corr., 416 S.W.3d 793 (Mo. 2013) (en banc). The well-documented, harmful effects of detainers include exclusion of prisoners from rehabilitative programs and instilling hopelessness in the prisoners of ever being released, thus defeating the objective of rehabilitating prisoners and reducing recidivism. State ex Rel. Kemp v. Hodge, 629 S.W.2d 353 (Mo. 1982) (en banc).

To remedy the problems posed by detainers, the federal government and nearly all of the states (including Missouri) entered into the IAD. Kemp. The IAD is applicable to pending criminal charges in one jurisdiction against a prisoner who is incarcerated in another jurisdiction’s correctional system. Id. The IAD’s stated purpose is “to encourage the expeditious and orderly disposition of such charges and determination of the proper status of any and all detainers based on untried indictments, informations or complaints.” RSMo 2016 § 217.490, art. I. The participating states agree to be bound by the terms of the IAD because detainers “produce uncertainties which obstruct programs of prisoner treatment and rehabilitation.” Id.

To encourage the speedy disposition of lodged detainers, article III, § 1 of the IAD provides, in pertinent part, that the prisoner “shall be brought to trial within one hundred eighty days after he shall have caused to be delivered to the prosecuting officer and the appropriate court of the prosecuting officer’s jurisdiction written notice of the place of his imprisonment and his request for a final disposition to be made of the indictment, information, or complaint; provided that for good cause shown in open court, the prisoner or his counsel being present, the court having jurisdiction of the matter may grant any necessary or reasonable continuance.” The prisoner’s request shall be accompanied by the Status Certificate. Id.

The IAD, article V, § 3, further provides: “If the appropriate authority shall refuse or fail to accept temporary custody of the person, or in the event that an action on the indictment, information or complaint on the basis of which the detainer has been lodged is not brought to trial within the period provided in article III or article IV of this agreement, the appropriate court of the jurisdiction where the indictment, information or complaint has been pending shall enter an order dismissing the same with prejudice, and any detainer based thereon shall cease to be of any force or effect.”

In the present case, the State and the circuit court received Wishom’s request on April 14, 2022. If properly invoked, the IAD’s 180-day time limit began running on that date. Kemp. But the State argued—for the first time on appeal—that Wishom failed to include the Status Certificate along with his request as required by the IAD.

The Court agreed that the IAD requires that the request be accompanied with the Status Certificate and that the Status Certificate is an essential requirement to invoke the provisions of the IAD because the Status Certificate enables the jurisdiction lodging the detainer to decide if it wants to prosecute the charges, dismiss the detainer, or take other action. (The Court observed in a footnote that prior decisions holding that the Status Certificate is not essential to invoking the IAD were not to be followed.) But the Court, citing Suitor, concluded that the State waived this argument because it accepted Wishom’s request as evidenced by the prosecutor’s mailing of the IAD Form showing the State specifically received custody of Wishom with the intention of proceeding to trial before the expiration of the 180 days and as evidenced by the prosecutor’s statement that Wishom “did do everything he was supposed to do” to comply with the IAD.

The Court also rejected the State’s argument that the inability to impanel a jury constitutes “good cause” for continuing the case beyond the 180-day time limit. The Court explained that courts of appeal in Missouri and other jurisdictions “have routinely held that a court’s crowded trial docket does not, on its own, provide ‘good cause’ to extend the IAD time period. Rather, the circuit court is obligated to take affirmative steps to prioritize an IAD case as necessary to try the prisoner within the applicable time limits.” (See opinion for multiple supporting citations.) In the instant case, the trial court impaneled juries in two other trials—one of which was a civil case. And it was the judge’s responsibility to prioritize the IAD case, not Wishom’s, the Court stated.

Finally, the Court rejected the State’s argument that Wishom was responsible for the delay when the case was continued after the trial court appointed the public defender. Even if the 180-day period was tolled for the days the State argued were attributable to delay caused by Wishom, the time period expired long before January 30, 2023.

Thus, the Court concluded: “Because the State waived any argument that Wishom failed to properly invoke his rights under the IAD and the circuit court lacked good cause to continue Wishom’s case beyond the limitation prescribed by the IAD, writ relief is warranted.

Accordingly, the Court ordered the preliminary writ be made permanent and prohibited the circuit court from taking any further action in Wishom’s case other than dismissing the pending charges. See: State ex rel. Wishom v. Bryant, 673 S.W.3d 88 (Mo. 2023) (en banc).

 

Writer’s note: Be aware that the IAD’s time periods do not start running until the prosecuting officer and the appropriate court of jurisdiction receive the request for final disposition of the charges underlying the detainer—not the date of the mailing of the request. It is advisable to send the request and Status Certificate via certified mail. Also, be certain both are mailed to the appropriate court and prosecuting officer. There are numerous cases in which the request and Status Certificate were mailed to the lower district court when the charges were felonies charged in the circuit court and vice versa. In such cases, the requests are invalid. Anyone with an interest in the IAD is encouraged to read the Court’s full opinion.  

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Related legal case

State ex rel. Wishom v. Bryant

 

 

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