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DA Watch: Houston DA Getting Ready to Try Really, Really Old Homicide Cases

There’s lots of news today regarding the spreading of swine flu around the world, along with statewide coverage of Justice Sharon Keller’s pending impeachment by the Texas Legislature and the death of longtime Tarrant District Attorney Tim Curry, who recently lost his battle with cancer.

So, it’s interesting that this UPI story isn’t getting more coverage.

Apparently, over in Harris County, there are cases dating back to 1970 that are open homicide matters, but they’ve never been tried.

That’s right. Defendants have been arrested and told they’re going to be tried for murder. And then the clock stops. They’re in limbo. And, according to press reports, there are over 600 of them.

What about the Constitutional Guarantee of a Speedy Trial?

Well, of course, the Constitution does guarantee that defendants do have the right to a speedy trial. However, there are many defense reasons why that right isn’t exercised.

Say you want your speedy trial, and you’ve got a really short time frame to gather your defense evidence — all your witnesses, your experts, your lab results, … you get the idea. In this day and age, sometimes asserting the right to a speedy trial isn’t in the defendant’s best interests when it comes to fully preparing a proper defense.

What Happens to these Defendants?

Well, Houston DA Pat Lycos has ordered her people to set up some kind of system to try and track these defendants down, so Harris County can have criminal trials for crimes that have occurred as long as 38 years ago.

Don’t you remember what you were doing back in 1970? Let’s see.

  • Simon & Garfunkel had the number one hit song on Billboard with “Bridge over Troubled Water.”
  • “Patton” won the Best Picture Oscar that year.
  • The Beatles gave their last live performance that year, and announced they were breaking up.
  • The first New York City marathon was run.
  • The Vietnam War was still raging.
  • The Chevy Vega and the Ford Pinto were introduced.
  • Richard Nixon was President; Barack Obama was 9 years old.

Yeah. No evidence problem here.

Sources:

UPI
http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2009/04/26/Texas-county-behind-on-homicide-cases/UPI-55981240771675/

Wikipedia – 1970
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1970


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