McGOWAN, Circuit Judge:
The sole issue raised on this appeal is whether appellant's armed robbery conviction must be reversed, and the indictment dismissed, because of a delay of nearly eighteen months between his arrest and trial.
Appellant was, on September 1, 1969, arrested shortly after the alleged offense.
A delay of over one year between arrest and trial raises a Sixth Amendment claim of "prima facie merit." Hedgepeth v. United States, 124 U.S.App.D.C. 291, 364 F.2d 684 (1966). It places on the Government the necessity of justification, the burden of which increases with the length of the delay. Id. at 687. When the delay approaches a year and a half, as in this case, the Government must provide a justification which convincingly outweighs the prejudice which can normally be assumed to have been caused the defendant.
In attempting to justify the delay in this case, the Government points only to the fact that, beginning on December 19, 1969, appellant was serving time for unrelated offenses, and argues that "[i]n view of the substantial number of incarcerated defendants who daily await trial in this jurisdiction because of their inability to make bond, the trial court acted reasonably in placing a lower priority upon appellant's case." The prejudice to defendants who are in prison for unrelated crimes, so the Government assumes, is outweighed by the desirability of quick dispositions for defendants who, if acquitted of the pending charge, will be freed.
The point is not without plausibility, certainly if it be assumed that the constitutional right to a speedy trial may, in these days of staggering increases in criminal indictments, be accommodated to the reality of a failure by the legislative branch to provide adequate judicial resources. But, whatever may be the merits of this approach, it cannot be decisive in this case. There is no indication in the record that the trial judge in fact consciously tolerated delay in the prosecution of appellant solely to expedite the trials of defendants who were incarcerated because they could not make bond. In fact, District Court records filed in this court show that the judge to whom appellant's case had been assigned was, for substantial portions of several months in 1970, engaged in a complex and burdensome narcotics conspiracy trial of multiple defendants, all of whom were released on bail. United States v. Tantillo, Nos. 71-1192 and 71-1193.
In light of that fact, the Government can hardly prevail in this instance on the theory that appellant's interests were outweighed by those of other incarcerated defendants. If the conviction is to be affirmed, rather, it must be on the ground that appellant was not significantly prejudiced by the delay in bringing his case to trial. Considering the circumstances in light of Supreme Court precedent, we conclude that there is present here a "reasonable possibility of significant prejudice." United States v. Holt, 145 U.S.App.D.C. 185, 448 F.2d 1108 (1971), cert. denied, 404 U.S. 942, 92 S.Ct. 292, 30 L.Ed.2d 256 (1971).
In Smith v. Hooey, 393 U.S. 374, 89 S.Ct. 575, 21 L.Ed.2d 607 (1968), the Supreme Court stated that "[a]t first blush it might appear that a man already in prison under a lawful sentence is hardly in a position to suffer from `undue and oppressive incarceration prior to trial.' But the fact is that delay in bringing such a person to trial on a pending charge may ultimately result in as much oppression as is suffered by one who is jailed without bail upon an untried charge." Id. at 378, 89 S.Ct. at 577. Specifically, the Court noted four types of prejudice which such a defendant might suffer:
Concerning the last of these types of prejudice, namely, impairment of the ability of the accused to present a defense, the Government contends that the evidence against appellant was so strong as to negate such a claim. In view of the fact that appellant does not allege that his defense was prejudiced, we discount that possibility, although we note that the fact that evidence at trial is one-sided does not necessarily bar such a claim. Seemingly overwhelming evidence of guilt can on occasion result from impairment of the defense capacity by reason of delay.
Regarding the second type of prejudice noted in Smith v. Hooey, appellant offers to prove that the pending charge diminished his ability to make parole, and also rendered him ineligible to participate in a rehabilitation program at Lorton Reformatory. Although those claims clearly are cognizable to show detriment from a Sixth Amendment violation, it would require a remand to establish their validity. Inasmuch as we find prejudice of another type, sufficient to require reversal in itself, we perceive no need to pursue the matter further.
The record suggests prejudice of the type noted first in Smith v. Hooey, i. e., the delay in bringing appellant's case to trial may well have cost him the opportunity to serve most of his sentence for the present offense concurrently with the sentences imposed on December 19, 1969. As noted in his reply brief, appellant finished serving these earlier terms in June, 1971. Thus, if his trial for the present offense had been held within a reasonably short time after his arrest on September 1, 1969, the two-year sentence imposed upon him — the statutory minimum — would have substantially overlapped with the earlier ones; only a few months would have remained after June, 1971. As it was, he was not sentenced until April 22, 1971, allowing for an overlap of less than two months.
This analysis, of course, rests on the assumption that the trial judge would not have sentenced appellant differently if the trial had been held earlier, i. e., he would not have imposed a minimum term greater than the mandatory two years or have made the sentence run consecutively with the earlier ones. On the record before us, that assumption seems sound. The sentencing transcript shows that the judge initially attempted to give appellant a lenient indeterminate sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 4208, and imposed the mandatory two-year minimum only after he remembered that appellant had been convicted of a District of Columbia Code crime. Given that fact, which indicates that the judge believed that appellant had been making progress toward rehabilitation, there is at least a "reasonable possibility" that appellant would not have been sentenced more harshly if the trial had been promptly held. No greater degree of certainty is required.
The significance of this case, and of the disposition we make of it, resides in the need for coordination and flexibility in the administration of the individual calendar system employed by the District Court.
The conviction is reversed, and the case remanded to the District Court with directions to dismiss the indictment.
It is so ordered.