United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
November 14, 2014
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
OPINION AND ORDER
MYRON H. THOMPSON, District Judge.
This cause is before the court on defendant Ladonna Conley's motion to continue. The government does not oppose the request. For the reasons set forth below, the court finds that jury selection and trial, now set for December 1, 2014, should be continued pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(7). This continuance applies only to Conley, and does not affect the trial date of her codefendant, Charnesha Alexander.
While the granting of a continuance is left to the sound discretion of the trial judge, United States v. Stitzer, 785 F.2d 1506, 1516 (11th Cir. 1986), the court is limited by the requirements of the Speedy Trial Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3161. The Act provides in part:
"In any case in which a plea of not guilty is entered, the trial of a defendant charged in an information or indictment with the commission of an offense shall commence within seventy days from the filing date (and making public) of the information or indictment, or from the date the defendant has appeared before a judicial officer of the court in which such charge is pending, whichever date last occurs."
18 U.S.C. § 3161(c)(1). The Act excludes from the 70-day period any continuance based on "findings that the ends of justice served by taking such action outweigh the best interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial." 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(7)(A). In granting such a continuance, the court may consider, among other factors, whether the failure to grant the continuance "would be likely to make a continuation of such proceeding impossible, or result in a miscarriage of justice." 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(7)(B)(i).
The court concludes that, in this case, the ends of justice served by granting a continuance outweigh the interest of the public and Conley in a speedy trial. Counsel for Conley has raised concerns regarding Conley's mental ability to assist in preparing for trial, and has submitted to the court the findings of a recent psychological evaluation completed by Dr. Catherine L. Boyer, a clinical psychologist. Dr. Boyer's report was ultimately inconclusive on Conley's competency to stand trial. The court will therefore proceed with a competency determination at a hearing in open court, after which it may require further evaluation of Conley's competence. A A continuance will allow time for this hearing and additional testing, until the court is fully satisfied Conley is mentally competent to proceed to trial.
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Accordingly, it is ORDERED as follows:
(1) Defendant Ladonna Conley's motion for continuance (doc. no. 67) is granted.
(2) The jury selection and trial for defendant Conley, now set for December 1, 2014, are reset for March 23, 2015, at 10:00 a.m., at the G.W. Andrews Federal Building and Courthouse, 701 Avenue A, Opelika, Alabama.
(3) The jury selection and trial for defendant Charnesha Alexander shall remain, as set, for December 1, 2014, at 10:00 a.m.