CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.
We granted certiorari to decide whether the time between dismissal of military charges and a subsequent indictment on civilian criminal charges should be considered in determining whether the delay in bringing respondent to trial for the murder of his wife and two children violated his rights under the Speedy Trial Clause of the Sixth Amendment.
The facts in this case are not in issue; a jury heard and saw all the witnesses and saw the tangible evidence. The only point raised here by petitioner involves a legal issue under the Speedy Trial Clause of the Sixth Amendment. Accordingly, only a brief summary of the facts is called for. In the early morning of February 17, 1970, respondent's pregnant wife and his two daughters, aged 2 and 5, were brutally murdered in their home on the Fort Bragg, N. C., military reservation. At the time, MacDonald, a physician, was a captain in the Army Medical Corps stationed at Fort Bragg. When the military police arrived at the scene following a call from MacDonald, they found the three victims dead and MacDonald unconscious from multiple stab wounds, most of them superficial, but one a life-threatening chest wound which caused a lung to collapse.
At the time and in subsequent interviews, MacDonald told of a bizarre and ritualistic murder. He stated that he was asleep on the couch when he was awakened by his wife's screams. He said he saw a woman with blond hair wearing a floppy hat, white boots, and a short skirt carrying a lighted
Physical evidence at the scene contradicted MacDonald's account and gave rise to the suspicion that MacDonald himself may have committed the crime.
At the request of the Justice Department, however, the CID continued its investigation. In June 1972, the CID forwarded a 13-volume report to the Justice Department recommending further investigation. Additional reports were submitted during November 1972 and August 1973. Following evaluation of those reports, in August 1974, the Justice Department presented the matter to a grand jury. On January 24, 1975, the grand jury returned an indictment charging MacDonald with the three murders.
Prior to his trial in Federal District Court,
We granted certiorari, 451 U.S. 1016 (1981), and we reverse.
The Sixth Amendment provides that "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial . . . ." A literal reading of the Amendment suggests that this right attaches only when a formal criminal charge is instituted and a criminal prosecution begins.
In United States v. Marion, 404 U.S. 307, 313 (1971), we held that the Speedy Trial Clause of the Sixth Amendment does not apply to the period before a defendant is indicted, arrested, or otherwise officially accused:
In addition to the period after indictment, the period between arrest and indictment must be considered in evaluating a Speedy Trial Clause claim. Dillingham v. United States, 423 U.S. 64 (1975). Although delay prior to arrest or indictment may give rise to a due process claim under the Fifth Amendment, see United States v. Lovasco, 431 U.S. 783, 788-789 (1977), or to a claim under any applicable statutes of limitations, no Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial arises until charges are pending.
Similarly, the Speedy Trial Clause has no application after the Government, acting in good faith, formally drops charges. Any undue delay after charges are dismissed, like any delay before charges are filed, must be scrutinized under the Due Process Clause, not the Speedy Trial Clause.
The Court identified the interests served by the Speedy Trial Clause in United States v. Marion, supra, at 320:
See also Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 532-533 (1972).
The Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial is thus not primarily intended to prevent prejudice to the defense caused by passage of time; that interest is protected primarily by the Due Process Clause and by statutes of limitations. The speedy trial guarantee is designed to minimize the possibility of lengthy incarceration prior to trial, to reduce the lesser, but nevertheless substantial, impairment of liberty imposed on an accused while released on bail, and to shorten the disruption of life caused by arrest and the presence of unresolved criminal charges.
Once charges are dismissed, the speedy trial guarantee is no longer applicable.
The Court of Appeals held, in essence, that criminal charges were pending against MacDonald during the entire period between his military arrest and his later indictment on civilian charges.
Reversed and remanded.
JUSTICE STEVENS, concurring in the judgment.
For the reasons stated by JUSTICE MARSHALL in Part II of his opinion, I also conclude that MacDonald's constitutional right to a speedy trial was not suspended during the period between the Army's dismissal of its charges in 1970 and the return of the civilian indictment in 1975. JUSTICE MARSHALL also is clearly correct in stating that the question whether the delay was constitutionally unacceptable is "close." Post, at 21. Since his opinion fairly identifies the countervailing factors, I need only state that the interest in allowing the Government to proceed cautiously and deliberately before making a final decision to prosecute for such a serious offense is of decisive importance for me in this case. I therefore concur in the Court's judgment.
On February 17, 1970, in the early morning, Dr. Jeffrey R. MacDonald called military police and requested help. When police arrived at the family quarters, they found him unconscious and suffering from multiple stab wounds, including one that threatened his life. His wife and two young children had been murdered. On May 1, 1970, the Army formally charged him with the murders. The Army dropped those charges on October 23, 1970, but reopened the investigation at the request of the Justice Department and handed over a comprehensive report in June 1972. The Justice Department did not convene a grand jury until August 1974, more than two years later. The Court of Appeals charged this delay to Government "indifference, negligence, or ineptitude." United States v. MacDonald, 531 F.2d 196, 207 (CA4 1976) (MacDonald I). On January 24, 1975, MacDonald was indicted by a civilian grand jury on three counts of murder, the same charges that the military authorities had dropped. Trial commenced in the summer of 1979.
Confronted with these facts, the majority reaches the facile conclusion that the speedy trial right is not implicated at all when the same sovereign initiates, drops, and then reinitiates criminal charges. That conclusion is not justified by the language of the Speedy Trial Clause or the teachings of our cases, and it is hopelessly at odds with any sensible understanding of speedy trial policies. I must dissent.
Because the majority scants the relevant facts in this case, I review them in somewhat more detail. The initial investigation of the murders in this case was conducted by the Army's Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as the local police. On May 1, 1970, the Army formally charged MacDonald with three specifications of murder, in violation of Article 118 of
The prosecution did not, however, terminate on that date. Within a month of MacDonald's discharge, at the specific request of the Justice Department, the CID continued its investigation. The renewed investigation was extensive and wide-ranging. The CID conducted 699 interviews and, at the request of the Department, sent the weapons and the victims' clothing to the FBI laboratory in July 1971. In December 1971, the CID completed its investigation, and in June 1972, the CID submitted a 13-volume report to the Justice Department. Although supplemental reports were transmitted in November 1972 and August 1973, the Court of Appeals found that "no significant new investigation was undertaken during this period, and none was pursued from August 1973 until the grand jury was convened a year later." MacDonald I, supra, at 206. Indeed, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina recommended that the matter be submitted to a grand jury within six months of June 1972, and in 1973, the CID suggested the convening of a grand jury before it conducted further investigation.
MacDonald was fully aware of these investigations. After his honorable discharge, MacDonald moved to California and resumed the practice of medicine. In 1971, the CID again interviewed
The Government did not present the case to a civilian grand jury until August 1974. MacDonald waived his right to remain silent and testified before the grand jury for a total of more than five days. Numerous other witnesses testified, the bodies of the victims were exhumed, and the FBI reinvestigated certain aspects of the crime. An indictment was returned on January 24, 1975. The indictment charged MacDonald with three counts of first-degree murder.
The Government offered no legitimate reason — not even docket congestion — for the delay between the submission of the June 1972 report and the presentation to the grand jury in August 1974. The Court of Appeals explained:
The FBI's failure to complete its analysis until 1974 is the only Government justification for the delay that the District
The majority's analysis is simple: the Speedy Trial Clause offers absolutely no protection to a criminal defendant during the period that a charge is not technically pending. But simplicity has its price. The price, in this case, is disrespect for the language of the Clause, important precedents of this Court, and speedy trial policies.
"In all criminal prosecutions," the Sixth Amendment recites, "the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial." On its face, the Sixth Amendment would seem to apply to one who has been publicly accused, has obtained dismissal of those charges, and has then been charged once again with the same crime by the same sovereign. Nothing in the language suggests that a defendant must be continuously under indictment in order to obtain the benefits of the speedy trial right. Rather, a natural reading of the language is that the Speedy Trial Clause continues to protect one who has been accused of a crime until the government has completed its attempts to try him for that crime.
Our cases, to the extent they address the issue, contradict the majority's view. In Klopfer v. North Carolina, 386 U.S. 213 (1967), the prosecutor entered a "nolle prosequi with leave" after the first trial ended in a mistrial. Under that procedure, the defendant was discharged from custody and subject to no obligation to report to the court, but the prosecutor could reinstate the indictment at any time upon application to the court. This Court held that the indefinite postponement of the prosecution, over the defendant's objection, "clearly" denied the defendant the right to a speedy
Klopfer teaches that the anxiety suffered by an accused person, even after the initial prosecution has terminated and after he has been discharged from custody, warrants application of the speedy trial protection. The analysis in United States v. Marion, 404 U.S. 307 (1971), relied on by the majority, is entirely consistent with this teaching. The Court in Marion held that the Speedy Trial Clause does not apply to the period before a defendant is first indicted, arrested, or otherwise officially accused. However, the Court hardly suggested that after the first official accusation has been made, the dropping of charges prior to a second official accusation wipes the slate clean.
The Court explained its holding by stating that "the indictment was the first official act designating appellees as accused individuals." Id., at 324 (emphasis added). Sixth Amendment provisions "would seem to afford no protection to those not yet accused, nor would they seem to require the Government to discover, investigate, and accuse any person within any particular period of time." Id., at 313 (emphasis added). Prior to the time of arrest or indictment, an accused may suffer anxiety, but he does not suffer the special form of anxiety engendered by public accusation. "Arrest is a public act that may seriously interfere with the defendant's liberty,
Marion also adverts to a serious procedural impediment to extending the speedy trial right prior to a first arrest or indictment: inquiry into when the police could have made an arrest or when the prosecutor could have brought charges would raise difficult problems of proof. Id., at 321, n. 13; see id., at 313. But in a case of successive prosecutions on the same charge, these difficulties do not exist: the speedy trial right should attach from the date of the initial accusation, a date which is simple to determine.
The majority also plainly ignores fundamental speedy trial policies. The special anxiety that a defendant suffers because of a public accusation does not disappear simply because the initial charges are temporarily dismissed. Especially when the defendant and the public are aware of an ongoing government investigation of the same charges, the defendant's interest in final resolution of the charges remains acute. After all, the government has revealed the seriousness of its threat of prosecution by initially bringing charges. The majority thus paints an entirely unrealistic portrait when
MacDonald was painfully aware of the ongoing Army and Justice Department investigations. He was interviewed again by military authorities soon after his honorable discharge. He repeatedly inquired about the progress of the investigations. He even proposed to submit to further interviews in order to speed final resolution of his case. MacDonald "realized that the favorable conclusion of the [military] proceedings was not the end of the government's efforts to convict him. Prudence obliged him to retain attorneys at his
The majority's insistence that the dismissal of an indictment eliminates speedy trial protections is not only inconsistent with the language and policies of the Speedy Trial Clause and with this Court's decisions. It is also senseless. Any legitimate government reason for delay during the period between prosecutions can, indeed must, be weighed when a court determines whether the defendant's speedy trial right has been violated. No purpose is served by simply ignoring that period for speedy trial purposes.
I conclude that application of the speedy trial right was not suspended during the period between the Army's dismissal of murder charges against MacDonald in October 1970 and the return of a civilian indictment on the same charges in January 1975. The question remains whether the delay violated his speedy trial right. I find the question close. However, after examining the four speedy trial right factors enunciated in Barker v. Wingo, supra — length of delay, the reason for the delay, the defendant's assertion of his right, and prejudice to the defendant — I agree with the Court of Appeals that MacDonald's speedy trial rights were violated.
The proper focus for this analysis is the 26-month period between June 1972 and the convening of a grand jury in August 1974.
MacDonald undeniably asserted his right to a speedy trial vigorously and often, beginning in January 1972. Although the Government's delay in pressing formal civilian charges prevented MacDonald from filing a formal motion to dismiss on speedy trial grounds, he invoked his right in the only meaningful way open to him. Indeed, the strength of his efforts is a powerful indication that he has suffered serious personal prejudice. See Barker v. Wingo, 407 U. S., at 531.
The last speedy trial factor, and the most difficult to evaluate on this record, is prejudice to the accused. Proof of actual prejudice to the defense at trial is not, of course, necessary to demonstrate a speedy trial violation. Moore v. Arizona, 414 U.S. 25 (1973) (per curiam). In Moore, this Court held that a defendant's speedy trial claim should not have been dismissed without further hearing, where the defendant was tried three years after he was first charged and 28 months after he demanded a speedy trial. In this case, the period of unjustified delay is at least two years, and MacDonald demanded an early disposition prior to that period. Because of this delay, a speedy trial violation could be found in this case, even without proof of actual prejudice at trial.
The proof of actual prejudice at trial in this case, although somewhat speculative, does buttress MacDonald's speedy trial claim. It is possible that Stoeckley's trial testimony would have been less confused and more helpful to MacDonald at an earlier date. This testimony was critical to MacDonald, whose principal defense was that she was one of a group of intruders who committed the murders. Although Stoeckley was hardly a reliable witness, she did testify at trial that she had no memory of the events that night, in contradiction to some of her earlier out-of-court statements. See MacDonald II, 632 F. 2d, at 264-265. Her claim of loss of memory obviously became more credible with the passage of time. It is likewise possible that the inevitable "coaching" of Government witnesses prior to their testimony would have had lesser adverse impact on the defense, and could have been minimized more effectively by cross-examination, had the trial occurred earlier.
Balancing these factors, I conclude that the Court of Appeals was correct in finding a speedy trial right violation. The Government undoubtedly has an interest in renewing the investigation of a charge that has been dismissed, in evaluating
The majority's opinion in this case is a disappointing exercise in strained logic and judicial illusion. Suspending application of the speedy trial right in the period between successive prosecutions ignores the real impact of the initial charge on a criminal defendant and serves absolutely no governmental interest. This Court has warned before against "allowing doctrinaire concepts . . . to submerge the practical demands of the constitutional right to a speedy trial." Smith v. Hooey, 393 U.S. 374, 381 (1969). The majority fails to heed that advice.
For the foregoing reasons, I dissent.
Most of the Courts of Appeals considering this issue have also reached the conclusion that the period after dismissal of initial charges is not included in determining whether the Speedy Trial Clause has been violated. See, e. g., United States v. Hillegas, 578 F.2d 453, 457-458 (CA2 1978); Arnold v. McCarthy, 566 F.2d 1377, 1383 (CA9 1978); United States v. Martin, 543 F.2d 577 (CA6 1976), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 1050 (1977); United States v. Bishton, 150 U. S. App. D. C. 51, 55, 463 F.2d 887, 891 (1972). The Fifth Circuit reached a seemingly contrary result in United States v. Avalos, 541 F.2d 1100 (1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 970 (1977). However in that case the court relied on unusual facts; the Government dismissed charges pending in one district in order to prosecute the defendants on those same charges in another district.
In none of the cases cited in the dissenting opinion, post, at 17-18, n. 2, from the First, Seventh, or Tenth Circuits did the Court of Appeals consider or discuss the issue before us.
There is nothing to suggest that the Justice Department acted in bad faith in not securing an indictment until January 1975. After the Army dismissed its charges, it continued its investigation at the request of the Justice Department; the Army's initial 13-volume report was not submitted to the Justice Department until June 1972, and supplemental reports were filed as late as August 1973. Within a year, the Justice Department completed its review of the massive evidence thus accumulated and submitted the evidence to a grand jury. The grand jury returned the indictment five months later.
Plainly the indictment of an accused — perhaps even more so the indictment of a physician — for the heinous and brutal murder of his pregnant wife and two small children is not a matter to be hastily arrived at either by the prosecution authorities or by a grand jury. The devastating consequences to an accused person from the very fact of such an indictment is a matter which responsible prosecutors must weigh carefully. The care obviously given the matter by the Justice Department is certainly not any indication of bad faith or deliberate delay.
Even the Circuits whose opinions the majority cites as support have issued somewhat contradictory signals on this question. See United States v. Lai Ming Tanu, 589 F.2d 82, 88-89 (CA2 1978) (leaving open question whether speedy trial right may ever apply continuously to successive state and federal prosecutions for the same transaction); United States v. Roberts, 548 F.2d 665 (CA6), cert. denied sub nom. Williams v. United States, 431 U.S. 920 (1977) (considering time between dismissal and indictment for speedy trial purposes without discussing contrary opinion in United States v. Martin, 543 F.2d 577 (CA6 1976), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 1050 (1977)); United States v. Henry, 615 F.2d 1223, 1233, n. 13 (CA9 1980) (leaving question open, and limiting Arnold v. McCarthy, 566 F.2d 1377 (CA9 1978), to the case of a dismissal following a mistrial); United States v. Lara, 172 U. S. App. D. C. 60, 63-65, 520 F.2d 460, 463-465 (1975) (considering tactical Government delay between dismissal and indictment for speedy trial purposes).