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State v. Walstrum

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

March 19, 2015

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
JOHN L. WALSTRUM, JR., Defendant.

Submitted: February 27, 2015

Upon Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Denied.

Kathleen A. Dickerson, Esquire, Department of Justice, Dover, Delaware; attorney for the State.

James E. Liguori, Esquire of Liguori & Morris, Dover, Delaware; attorney for the Defendant.

ORDER

WITHAM, R.J.

The issue before the Court is whether the Court may dismiss the charges pursuant to Superior Court Rule 48(b) because the State has delayed the Defendant's prosecution by waiting five (5) months to indict him from his arrest date.

Facts and Procedure

On February 13, 2015, the Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 48(b). The Defendant was arrested in August of 2014, and was indicted on February 2, 2015. The charges the Defendant was indicted on are as follows: 3 counts of Sexual Abuse of a Child by a Person in a Position of Trust or Authority, or Supervision in the First Degree; 2 counts of Rape in the Second Degree; Rape in the Fourth Degree; Conspiracy First Degree; and Child Abuse in the Second Degree.

The Defendant argues that because the State waited five (5) months to indict him that his speedy trial rights were violated and the State caused "unnecessary delay." The Defendant's sole reason supporting a dismissal due to a violation of his speedy trial rights is that he has suffered prejudice because now the victim's recollection "is even less reliable with the passage of time and his own mental and physical infirmities compounded by the unnecessary passage of time."

The indictment notes that at the time of the indictment, the victim was a child with "significant or developmental disabilities." The Defendant argues that because of the victim's mental deficiencies, his memory of the offense has likely dwindled. The Defendant relies on State v. Willis[1] in dismissing his case.

Standard of Review for 48(b)

A defendant's speedy trial rights attach upon the date of his arrest or indictment.[2] Four factors must be considered in determining whether there is a speedy trial violation: the length of the delay, the State's reason for the delay, the defendant's assertion of his right, and the prejudice to the defendant.[3] Rule 48(b) allows the Court to exercise its discretion to dismiss an indictment or information for "unnecessary delay."[4] While speedy trial rights are implemented by Rule 48(b), the showing of prejudice required for violation of Rule 48(b) is "broader than normally associated with a Sixth Amendment analysis."[5] Dismissal under Rule 48(b) is typically not granted when the delay is attributable to "unavailability of prosecutors, crowded dockets, inadvertence, or even prosecution negligence."[6] Unnecessary delay warranting dismissal has been found when the delay is attributable to "the deliberate choice of the prosecuting authorities for no valid reason."[7]

Lastly, the Delaware Supreme Court uses the Barker balancing test from the United States Supreme Court case to determine whether a Defendant's speedy trial rights have been violated. Those factors to be balanced are: (1) the length of the delay; (2) the reason for the delay; (3) whether the defendant asserted ...


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