Will the speedy trial act help Buju?

21 DEC,2011

INCARCERATED Jamaican Reggae star Buju Banton could be freed due to a blunder on the part of the United States Government which failed to bring him to trial before 70 days — a right guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment.

The Speedy Trial Act refers to one of the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution to defendants in criminal proceedings. The right to a speedy trial, guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, is intended to make sure that defendants are not subjected to unreasonably lengthy incarceration prior to a fair trial.

In judging speedy trial claims, the US Supreme Court has developed a four-part test that considers the length of the delay, the reasons for the delay, the defendant’s assertion of his right to a speedy trial, and the prejudice to the defendant.

Violations of the act, such as where the state has failed to bring the case to trial for an ‘unreasonable’ length of time, may be a cause for dismissal of a criminal case.

Lawyers on behalf of the entertainer last week filed an appeal in a Georgia Court of Appeal citing the violation of the act and that Banton, whose real name is Mark Anthony Myrie, was not guilty of using the wires to facilitate a drug deal and did not conspire with others to distribute cocaine. The lawyers are also arguing that Myrie was entrapped because he did not have a predisposition to participate in a drug conspiracy.

In May last year, US Magistrate James Moody pushed back Banton’s trial date to September that same year without giving any specific reason for the postponement. It was the second time that Moody had pushed back the trial date as he had done so in April last year as well.

On both occasions Buju’s legal team voiced their objection and filed a motion which in part reads:

“Today, on May 28, 2010, the court has again continued the case another 70 days plus until the September trial calendar. No reason has been given for the continuance until September. No findings have been made. Mr Myrie remains incarcerated in the county jail. This is presenting an enormous burden on Mr Myrie, his witnesses, and his counsel. Through this pleading, we demand a speedy trial as required under the act and the constitution.”

Buju Banton was slapped with a 10-year sentence and is now languishing in the Federal Correctional Institution in Miami, Florida.