Here is a case that’s headed for reversal:
After he was charged with hitting his girlfriend in the face, career criminal Michael Brillon sat in jail without bail for nearly three years, going through six public defenders before being tried for assault.
The delays paid off – for Brillon: A Vermont court threw out his conviction and freed him from prison last spring, saying his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial had been violated.
The case is headed to the Supreme Court this week.
The defendant argues that it’s the government’s fault it took him so long to get to trial. But let’s look at what happened to his lawyers:
Held without bail, his case inched along as lawyer after lawyer asked for postponements and eventually withdrew or was replaced at Brillon’s request.
The first got an evidentiary hearing postponed because he was moving his law practice. He was fired by Brillon, who claimed the lawyer had failed to communicate with him.
The second reported a conflict of interest that prevented him from continuing – a day after he’d been appointed.
The third quit after telling a judge Brillon threatened his life during a break in a hearing.
Brillon fired the fourth, and the fifth quit, citing changes to his contract with the state public defender’s office.
The sixth took the case to trial in 2004, when Brillon was convicted and sentenced to 12 to 20 years in prison because he was a habitual offender with three prior felony convictions.
So in other words, the defendant caused much of this delay. He fired two of these lawyers and threatened a third. Another quit due to an unspecified conflict of interest — sorry, sir, but we need to know what that is. Was it a conflict caused by your threatening another lawyer?
This is like those cases where a defendant appeals his death verdict to the hilt, and then appeals on cruel and unusual punishment grounds because his appeal took too long. That ridiculous argument has found adherents among the mushy-headed liberals at the Supreme Court, and I don’t know why this one would be any different.
Still, I think the makeup of the court is sane enough that I have little doubt this will be reversed.