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Second Circuit explains decision on speedy trial issue.

Byline: Bennett Loudon

A Second Circuit panel has released a 41-page opinion in the case of a man whose drug conviction was reversed in November. In addition to a congested court docket, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said the unreasonable delays in the trial of Joseph Tigano III included three competency exams, which all showed he was competent to stand trial. The Second Circuit also blamed the U.S. Marshals Service for not providing timely transportation to facilities where the exams were administered. And the prosecution failed to offer a written plea deal in a reasonable amount of time. The panel cited the use of multiple magistrate judges, and defense counsels delays, despite Tiganos desire to represent himself and proceed quickly to trial. The courts opinion reaffirmed the fundamental importance of the Constitutional right to a speedy trial, which was flagrantly violated in Joe Tiganos case, said Tiganos appellate attorney, Gary Stein, of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP in New York City. Tigano was detained for almost seven years before being convicted in May 2015 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York for growing about 1,000 marijuana plants on their Cattaraugus County property. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Tigano and his father, Joseph Tigano Sr. were arrested in July 200 and indicted in October 200. In November 2013, Tiganos father pleaded guilty to one count of manufacturing 50 or more marijuana plants. Tiganos facts are exceptional in nearly every meaningful respect within the context of a Sixth Amendment speedy trial analysis, wrote the Second Circuit panel Justices John M. Walker Jr., Ralph K. Winter, and Rosemary S. Pooler. The length of detention was the result of countless small choices and neglects, none of which was individually responsible for the injustice suffered by Tigano, but which together created this extreme instance of a Sixth Amendment violation, according to the panel. Tigano was the victim of poor trial management and general indifference at every level toward this low-priority defendant in a straightforward case, the panel wrote. For example, Tigano was arraigned on Oct. 20, 200 and pleaded not guilty. The next court meeting was scheduled for March 19, 2009, but it was rescheduled on a motion of Tiganos father, who requested a delay. But Tiganos attorney didnt tell Tigano about the change in date. On March 19, 2009, nobody told Tigano why he was not being taken to court, so he started a hunger strike for not being taken to court for what he thought was a scheduled meeting. The transcript of the proceeding makes clear that the driving motivation for the decision to order a competency exam was Tiganos repeated demand for his speedy trial, according to the opinion. When Tigano indicated he wanted to represent himself, U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh Scott told him he was making a huge mistake and said Tiganos desire to represent himself and to proceed quickly to trial are tending to make me believe he needs to be evaluated again. Tiganos statements in court became increasingly desperate and plaintive as he pleaded for the case to move toward resolution. He continued to repeatedly raise his right to a speedy trial and to plead for severance from his father, the panel wrote. Additional delays resulted from a variety of problems: discovery material was not provided by the prosecution in a timely manner, transcripts from court reporters were delayed; and even destroyed paperwork at the Niagara County Jail, where Tigano was being detained.

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Publication:Daily Record (Rochester, NY)
Date:Jan 23, 2018
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