Where petitioner was tried for murder in Arizona almost three
years after he was charged and 28 months after he first demanded
that Arizona either extradite him from California, where he was
serving a prison term, or drop a detainer against him, the Arizona
Supreme Court, in affirming the denial of petitioner's pretrial
habeas corpus application, erred in ruling that a showing of
prejudice to the defense at trial was essential to establish a
federal speedy trial claim. In addition to possible prejudice, a
court must weigh the reasons for delay in bringing an incarcerated
defendant to trial, and should also consider the possible impact
pending charge might have on defendant's prospects for parole and
meaningful rehabilitation. Smith v. Hooey, 393 U.
; Dickey v. Florida, 398 U. S.
; Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.
Certiorari granted; 109 Ariz. 111, 506 P.2d 242
vacated and remanded.
Almost three years after he was charged and 28 months after he
first demanded that Arizona either extradite him from California,
where he was serving a prison term, or drop a detainer against him,
petitioner was tried for murder in Arizona. Prior to trial, he
filed a state habeas corpus application, alleging a deprivation of
his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment right to a speedy trial. In
affirming the denial of the petition, the Arizona Supreme Court
ruled that, under this Court's decisions in Dickey v.
Florida, 398 U. S. 30
(1970), and Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.
(1972), a showing of prejudice to the defense at
trial was essential to establish a federal speedy trial claim. The
state court found no such prejudice here, because petitioner was
Page 414 U. S. 26
preliminary hearing and allowed to subpoena witnesses. [Footnote 1
] 109 Ariz. 111, 506 P.2d 242
The state court was in fundamental error in its reading of
Barker v. Wingo
and in the standard applied in judging
petitioner's speedy trial claim. Barker v. Wingo
rejected the notion that an affirmative demonstration of prejudice
was necessary to prove a denial of the constitutional right to a
"We regard none of the four factors identified above [length of
delay, reason for delay, defendant's assertion of his right, and
prejudice to the defendant] as either a necessary or sufficient
condition to the finding of a deprivation of the right of speedy
trial. Rather, they are related factors and must be considered
together with such other circumstances as may be relevant. In sum,
these factors have no talismanic qualities; courts must still
engage in a difficult and sensitive balancing process. But, because
we are dealing with a fundamental right of the accused, this
process must be carried out with full recognition that the
accused's interest in a speedy trial is specifically affirmed in
407 U.S. at 407 U. S. 533
(footnote omitted). In addition to possible prejudice, any court
must thus carefully weigh the reasons for the delay in bringing an
incarcerated defendant to trial. In the face of petitioner's
repeated demands, did the State discharge its "constitutional duty
to make a diligent, good faith effort to bring him [to trial]"?
Smith v. Hooey, 393 U. S. 374
393 U. S. 383
Moreover, prejudice to a defendant caused by delay in bringing
him to trial is not confined to the possible
Page 414 U. S. 27
prejudice to his defense in those proceedings. [Footnote 2
] Inordinate delay,
"wholly aside from possible prejudice to a defense on the
merits, may 'seriously interfere with the defendant's liberty,
whether he is free on bail or not, and . . . may disrupt his
employment, drain his financial resources, curtail his
associations, subject him to public obloquy, and create anxiety in
him, his family and his friends.' United States v. Marion,
404 U. S.
, 404 U. S. 320
factors are more serious for some than for others, but they are
inevitably present in every case to some extent, for every
defendant will either be incarcerated pending trial or on bail
subject to substantial restrictions on his liberty."
Barker v. Wingo, supra,
at 407 U. S. 537
(WHITE, J., concurring). See also id.
at 407 U. S.
-533 (majority opinion). Some of these factors may
carry quite different weight where a defendant is incarcerated
after conviction in another State, but no court should overlook the
possible impact pending charges might have on his prospects for
parole and meaningful rehabilitation. Strunk v. United
States, 412 U. S. 434
412 U. S. 439
The State of Arizona itself has conceded that this is a close
case under Barker v. Wingo,
and that it is arguable
whether the three-year delay was excusable. Because we agree and
because "the right to a speedy trial is as
Page 414 U. S. 28
fundamental as any of the rights secured by the Sixth
Amendment," Klopfer v. North Carolina, 386 U.
, 386 U. S. 223
(1967), we grant the motion for leave to proceed in forma
and the petition, vacate the judgment, and remand to
the Arizona Supreme Court to reassess petitioner's case under the
standards mandated by Smith, Barker,
The court did not mention the unavailability of one of the two
key witnesses as the result of her deportation 18 months after the
charge had been filed against petitioner.
The examples of possible trial prejudice recited in
bear directly on this case:
"If witnesses die or disappear during a delay, the prejudice is
obvious. There is also prejudice if defense witnesses are unable to
recall accurately events of the distant past. Loss of memory,
however, is not always reflected in the record because what has
been forgotten can rarely be shown."
Barker v. Wingo, 407 U. S. 514
407 U. S. 532