Last Modified: Monday, April 29, 2013 7:15 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed Jonathan Boyer’s murder appeal, saying the writ should not have made it before the court.
Boyer asked the court to overturn his second-degree murder conviction in 14th Judicial District Court because it was seven years from the time of the crime before he made it to trial in Calcasieu Parish.
Boyer, who was convicted in 2009, is serving life in prison for the 2002 murder of Bradlee Marsh.
Boyer shot Marsh, who had given Boyer and his brother a ride, three times in the head and robbed him.
Because the state was seeking the death penalty, Boyer was provided two attorneys, but the state could not find money to fund his lead counsel, Tom Lorenzi.
In an opinion released Monday, the Supreme court voted 5-4 that the writ had been “improvidently” granted.
Justice Anton Scalia, writing for his fellow justices in favor of dismissing the writ, said that Boyer’s contention that the state was responsible for much of the delay was incorrect.
“Having taken up this case on the basis of a mistaken factual premise, I agree with the Court’s decision to dismiss the writ as improvidently granted,” Scalia wrote.
Boyer filed a motion to determine a source of funding in November 2002 and a hearing was set for Aug. 15, 2003, but it was continued several times.
Scalia said the defense postponed the hearing eight times, causing a delay of 20 months.
He said other court continuances delayed the case another 15 months.
The funding issue was finally resolved when the state decided not to seek the death penalty and Lorenzi stepped aside.
The case was also delayed when Hurricane Rita struck in 2005 and when Boyer was found mentally incompetent to stand trial in July 2008. He was found competent again in April 2009. All case proceedings stop when a defendant is found mentally incompetent.
The case went to trial in September 2009 despite Boyer’s “contention that he still needed more time to prepare,” Scalia said.
SDLqThe record shows that the single largest share of the delay in this case was the direct result of defense requests for continuances, that other defense motions caused substantial additional delay, and that much of the rest of the delay was caused by events beyond anyone’s control,” Scalia said. “It is also quite clear that the delay caused by the defense likely worked in the petitioner’s favor.”
Writing for the dissenting justices, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the court should have considered whether a state’s inability to provide funding for an indigent defender weighs against the state in determining the defendant’s right a speedy trial.
“Our precedents provide a clear answer: Such a delay should weigh against the state,” she said.
The Louisiana Supreme Court found that most of the delays were caused by a lack of funding, but did not weigh that against the state as it should have, she said.
“Where a State has failed to provide funding for the defense and that lack of funding causes a delay, the defendant cannot reasonably be faulted,” she said. “Placing the consequences of such a delay squarely on the State’s shoulders is proper for the simple reason that an indigent defendant has no control over whether a state has set aside funds to pay his lawyer or fund any necessary investigation.”
Sotomayor lamented the state Supreme Court’s failure to resolve the case, calling it “illustrative of larger, systemic problems in Louisiana.”
“The Louisiana Supreme Court has suggested on multiple occasions that the State’s failure to provide funding for indigent defense contributes to extended pretrial detentions,” she said.
She listed a 2003 study that found the average time between felony arrest and trial in Calcasieu Parish was 501 days in the years before Boyer’s arrest
“Against this backdrop, the Court’s silence in this case is particularly unfortunate,” Sotomayor said. “Conditions of this kind cannot persist without endangering constitutional rights.”