CHICAGO (CN) – A man convicted of sexually assaulting his ex-girlfriend’s 15-year-old sister was not prejudiced by a delay to the start of his trial, the 7th Circuit ruled.
Albert West was charged with second-degree sexual assault of a child on July 12, 2005, after the girl claimed that West raped her in his car at a Wisconsin county fair.
West, who was incarcerated when the charge was initially filed, made his first court appearance on November 5, 2005.
Though the trial was scheduled for September 2006, an alibi witness whom West had intended to call, Damien Robinson, was killed in December.
West and his attorneys pushed the date of trial to Feb. 19, 2008, eventually finding a new witness who testified that West had not attended the fair.
Another witness admitted during trial that she had falsely created an alibi for West after learning that Robinson had died. Three other witnesses also testified that they saw West at the fair on the date of the offense.
A jury found West guilty, imposing a three-year prison sentence and six years of probation.
On appeal, West challenged the 14-month delay between the 2005 filing of charges and the 2006 scheduled start date of the trial. West could not challenge delays after that date, for which he was responsible.
Just as the Wisconsin appeals court found that the delay had not prejudiced West, the 7th Circuit affirmed Thursday that no constitutional violation had occurred.
A delay that exceeds 12 months is “presumptively prejudicial” under a standard set by the Supreme Court standard in Barker v. Wingo, but West cannot tie the 14-month delay and the alleged prejudice incurred by the death of his witness, Damien Robinson, the court found.
“Robinson … passed away six months after the state filed its complaint,” Judge Diane Wood for a three-member panel. “Had the trial started shortly thereafter, West would have been hard pressed to bring a successful speedy trial claim, because he would have been almost six months short of the 12-month Barker trigger.”
The predicted impact of Robinson’s testimony on the jury is also tenuous, the panel found.
“When one also considers the strength of the evidence the state presented to show that West was indeed at the fair and with the victim, we cannot find that the state court’s conclusion on prejudice was unreasonable,” Wood concluded.