Miss. high court to review Hinds Co. speedy trial case

Published 12:11 am Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Mississippi Supreme Court will hear the appeal of a Hinds County man brought to trial 550 days after his arrest — more than double the maximum allowed by the state’s speedy trial law.

The justices, in a 5-4 order, agreed Thursday to hear the appeal of Phelan Terrell Guice.

Guice was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2004 for shooting a Jackson homeowner. He was arrested for the crime on Sept. 14, 2001; was arraigned on Oct. 30, 2002; and was brought to trial on May 3, 2004. Guice was in jail the entire time.

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State law requires that a defendant be brought to trial within 270 days of arraignment.

The state Court of Appeals, in upholding Guice’s conviction in January, said no speedy trial violation occurred even though it was clear that prosecutors “failed by 280 days to comply with its statutory obligation to bring Guice to trial.”

“We have a clear violation of the statute requiring that a defendant be brought to trial within 270 days of arraignment,” Appeals Judge Tyree Irving wrote in the decision.

Irving said the court record revealed no explanation for the delay and no evidence of continuances requested by or granted to either prosecutors or Guice.

However, the Appeals Court declined to toss out Guice’s conviction.

Under state law, if a defendant is not tried within 270 days of his arraignment, the defendant is entitled to a dismissal of the charges. Continuances, by either the defendant or the prosecution, can extend the time.

According to the court record, Guice filed a motion on Feb. 5, 2004, to dismiss the charges on grounds of failure to provide a speedy trial.

The Appeals Court said the motion was filed well after the expiration of the 270 days of the arraignment. Irving said there was no speedy trial violation.

Irving said Guice waived his right to complain about the denial of his statutory right to a speedy trial because he did not assert his right to a speedy trial until well after the deadline had passed.

“Guice’s trial was delayed for a presumptively prejudicial amount of time, and he failed to assert his right to a speedy trial. Guice’s failure to assert this right weighs against him. Guice failed to demonstrate how his incarceration and the delay caused him any actual prejudice beyond what is ordinary while awaiting trial,” Irving said.