Opinion of the Court by MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER, announced by MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS.
Petitioner was found guilty in United States District Court of transporting a stolen automobile from
Prior to trial, the District Court denied a motion to dismiss the federal charge, in which petitioner argued that he had been denied his right to a speedy trial. At trial, petitioner called no witnesses and did not take the stand; the jury returned a verdict of guilty. The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court, holding that petitioner had in fact been denied a speedy trial. However, the court went on to hold that the "extreme" remedy of dismissal of the charges was not warranted; the case was remanded to the District Court to reduce petitioner's sentence to the extent of 259 days in order to compensate for the unnecessary delay which had occurred between return of the indictment and petitioner's arraignment.
Certiorari was granted on petitioner's claim that, once a judicial determination has been made that an accused has been denied a speedy trial, the only remedy available to the court is "to reverse the conviction, vacate the sentence, and dismiss the indictment." No cross-petition was filed by the Government to review the determination of the Court of Appeals that the defendant had been denied a speedy trial. The Government acknowledges that, in its present posture, the case presents a novel and unresolved issue, not controlled by any prior decisions of this Court.
The Court of Appeals stated that the 10-month delay which occurred was "unusual and call[ed] for explanation as well as justification," 467 F.2d 969, 972. The Government
On this record, it seems clear that petitioner was responsible for a large part of the 10-month delay which occurred and that he neither showed nor claimed that the preparation of his defense was prejudiced by reason of the delay. It may also well be correct that the United States Attorney was understaffed due to insufficient appropriations and, consequently, was unable to provide an organization capable of dealing with the rising caseload in his office, especially with respect to criminal cases. Unintentional delays caused by overcrowded court dockets or understaffed prosecutors are among the factors to be weighed less heavily than intentional delay, calculated to hamper the defense, in determining whether the Sixth Amendment has been violated but, as we noted in Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 531 (1972), they must
However, in the absence of a cross-petition for certiorari, questioning the holding that petitioner was denied a speedy trial, the only question properly before us for review is the propriety of the remedy fashioned by the Court of Appeals. Whether in some circumstances, and as to some questions, the Court might deal with an issue involving constitutional claims, absent its being raised by cross-petition, we need not resolve. Suffice it that in the circumstances presented here in which the speedy trial issue has been pressed by the accused from the time of arrest forward and resolved in his favor, we are not disposed to examine the issue since we must assume the Government deliberately elected to allow the case to be resolved on the issue raised by the petition for certiorari.
Turning to the remaining question of the power of the Court of Appeals to fashion what it appeared to consider as a "practical" remedy, we note that the court clearly perceived that the accused had an interest in being tried promptly, even though he was confined in a penitentiary for an unrelated charge. Under these circumstances,
The Court of Appeals went on to state:
It is correct, as the Court of Appeals noted, that Barker prescribes "flexible" standards based on practical considerations. However, that aspect of the holding in Barker was directed at the process of determining whether a denial of speedy trial had occurred; it did not deal with the remedy for denial of this right. By definition,
The Government's reliance on Barker to support the remedy fashioned by the Court of Appeals is further undermined when we examine the Court's opinion in that case as a whole. It is true that Barker described dismissal of an indictment for denial of a speedy trial as an "unsatisfactorily severe remedy." Indeed, in practice, "it means that a defendant who may be guilty of a serious crime will go free, without having been tried." 407 U. S., at 522. But such severe remedies are not unique in the application of constitutional standards.
Given the unchallenged determination that petitioner was denied a speedy trial,
Reversed and remanded.