The Sixth Amendment, which guarantees the right to a speedy trial, no longer applies in the great state of Louisiana.
According to the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, around 1300 people have been locked up for at least 4 years without a trial. They also said that about 70 people have been there at least 5 years.
“I think the number is actually higher,” the association’s executive director, Michael Ranatza, said after a budget hearing before state lawmakers in the House Appropriations Committee on April 9, reported NOLA.
Ranatza told the committee the unconstitutional problem is so bad that it is cutting into the sheriffs’ budgets just to hold people for so long to seemingly no real end.
“I want you to understand that there are people in the state of Louisiana who have waited over five years to be tried in criminal court,” Ranatza told the committee. “There’s a higher number at the four-year level, about almost 1,200.”
Public defenders claimed to be completely unaware of the issue, with state public defender Jay Dixon saying there is a system that is supposed to automatically alert public defenders if a case has been left with no progress or no proceedings for six months.
Dixon also said there is no way to verify the sheriffs’ association’s numbers because not everyone is represented by a public defender. He also said there could b several different reasons why someone is forced to stay in jail without a trial, including being unable to pay bail.
Dixon also said that there was no easy way to verify the sheriffs’ association’s figures, given that the people included in the survey are not necessarily represented by public defenders. That, and the fact that there are a number of factors that come into play as to why someone would be forced to sit in jail for trial … such as being unable to pay bail.
The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a speedy trial, but this is clearly not happening in Louisiana.
The state requires that a trial should begin within 120 days for someone charged with a felony, or 30 days for a misdemeanor charge, unless a judge rules that the delay is justified.
The ACLU of Louisiana is concerned with the numbers, but also pointed out that it is a nationwide problem.
“This is huge problem in Louisiana and it is a problem nationally,” Bruce Hamilton, a staff attorney with the ACLU said.