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United States v. Hamilton

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

November 5, 2014



JOHN M. GERRARD, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the motion to continue trial filed by the government (filing 488), the opposition to that motion lodged by counsel for defendants Hamilton and Mendoza-Adame, and oral motions to sever also made by defendants Hamilton and Mendoza-Adame. For the following reasons, the Court will grant the government's motion, deny the defendants' motions, and establish a final trial schedule.

The government's motion represents that Mendoza-Adame, added to this case in the 6th Superseding Indictment filed on September 17, 2014, is in the process of being transported from California and has not yet made an initial appearance in Nebraska. The Court is cognizant of the "strong presumption" for a joint trial of properly-joined defendants. See United States v. Jenkins-Watts, 574 F.3d 950, 967 (8th Cir. 2009). The Court is also faced with a scheduling conflict between this case and another case, United States v. Thomas Whitlow, case no. 4:14-cr-3015, and the speedy trial clock for that case is close to expiration. The defendant in that case is in custody awaiting trial, while Hamilton-the only defendant in this case who is set for trial on November 18 and who objects to the continuance-is out on pretrial release.[1]

As a general matter, the Court is endowed "with great discretion to make decisions concerning trial schedules, " see United States v. Taylor, 487 U.S. 326, 344 (1988), but one of the few express limitations on that discretion is Congress' command that the trial of "a detained person who is being held in detention solely because he is awaiting trial... shall be accorded priority." 18 U.S.C. § 3164(a)(1). And, of course, the Court's discretion is also confined by the Speedy Trial Act. Taylor, 487 U.S. at 343-44. And the Speedy Trial Act permits a "reasonable period of delay when the defendant is joined for trial with a codefendant as to whom the time for trial has not run and no motion for severance has been granted." 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(6).

Hamilton opposes the continuance and has moved to sever her case, asserting her desire to go to trial. But because she is not in custody, other cases in which a defendant is in custody must be given priority. § 3164(a)(1). And the defendant is charged with conspiracy, which means the presumption for a joint trial is particularly significant because it gives the jury the best perspective on all of the evidence and therefore increases the likelihood of a just outcome. United States v. Henley, 766 F.3d 893, 915 (8th Cir. 2014). The only prejudice identified by the defendant is the delay in trying her case, and there is no indication it will impair her defense. While the defendant may be unsatisfied with waiting, the Court finds that she has not been prejudiced to the extent necessary to overcome the presumption of a joint trial. Cf. Jenkins-Watts, 574 F.3d at 966-67. The Court will deny her motion to sever.

Mendoza-Adame also opposes the continuance. But Mendoza-Adame is not set to be tried on November 18, and the Court is aware of no authority for a defendant to complain about someone else's trial being continued. There is no legitimate way in which Mendoza-Adame could be prejudiced by the continuance. Mendoza-Adame also moved to sever, based solely on his belief that his trial might at some point be delayed too. That contention carries little weight from a defendant who still hasn't made an initial appearance; he cannot show prejudice based on what might happen. The Court will deny his motion to sever.

Instead, the Court will grant the government's motion to continue and establish the following trial schedule.


1. The government's motion to continue trial (filing 488) is granted.
2. Defendant Hamilton's oral motion to sever is denied.
3. Defendant Mendoza-Adame's oral motion to sever is denied.
4. Based upon the showing set forth in the motion and the representation of counsel, the Court further finds that the ends of justice will be served by continuing the trial, and that the purposes served by continuing the trial date in this case outweigh the interests of the remaining defendants and the public in a speedy trial. The ends of justice are served by trying these defendants jointly. Accordingly, the additional time arising as a result of the granting of the motion-the time between today's date and March 10, 2015-shall be deemed excludable time in any computation of time under the requirements of the Speedy Trial Act, because despite counsel's due diligence, additional time is needed to adequately prepare this case for trial and failing to grant additional time might result in a miscarriage of justice. 18 U.S.C. §§ 3161(h)(1), (h)(6), & (h)(7).
5. This case, as to all of the above-captioned defendants, is set for a jury trial before the undersigned judge in Courtroom 1 (Special Proceedings), Roman L. Hruska Federal Courthouse, 111 South 18th Plaza, Omaha, Nebraska, commencing at 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday, March 10, 2015, or as soon thereafter as the case may be called, for a duration of 7 (seven) trial days.[2]
6. A pretrial conference is scheduled to be held before the undersigned judge at 3:00 p.m. on Monday, March 9, 2015 in chambers, Courtroom 1 (Special Proceedings), Roman L. Hruska Federal ...

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