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United States Supreme Court

404 U.S. 307

United States  v.  Marion

 Argued: Nov. 8, 1971. --- Decided: Dec 20, 1971


Appellees, claiming that the Government had known of the crimes with which they were charged, the circumstances of the crimes, and appellees' identities for over three years before they were indicted, moved to dismiss on the ground that the indictment was returned 'an unreasonably oppressive and unjustifiable time after the alleged offenses,' and that the delay deprived them of rights to due process of law and a speedy trial as secured by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. While asserting no specific prejudice, appellees contended that the indictment required memory of many specific acts and conversations occurring several years before and that the delay was due to the prosecutor's negligence or indifference in investigating the case and presenting it to the grand jury. The District Court, after a hearing, granted appellees' motion and dismissed the indictment for 'lack of speedy prosecution,' having found that the defense was 'bound to have been seriously prejudiced' by the three-year delay. The Government took a direct appeal to this Court, which postponed consideration of the question of jurisdiction until the hearing on the merits. Held:

1. The motion to dismiss the indictment for lack of a speedy trial was in the nature of a confession and avoidance and constituted a motion in bar by appellees who had not been placed in jeopardy when the District Court entered its order of dismissal. That order was therefore directly appealable to this Court under former 18 U.S.C. § 3731. P. 311-312.

2. The Sixth Amendment's guarantee of a speedy trial is applicable only after a person has been 'accused' of a crime, which in this case did not occur until appellees (who had not previously been arrested or otherwise charged) were indicted. Pp. 313-320.

3. The relevant statute of limitations provides a safeguard against possible prejudice resulting from pre-accusation delay, and here appellees were indicted within the applicable limitations period. Pp. 320-323.

4. Though the Due Process Clause may provide a basis for dismissing an indictment if the defense can show at trial that prosecutorial delay has prejudiced the right to a fair trial, appellees have not claimed or proved actual prejudice resulting from the delay and their due process claims are therefore speculative and premature. P. 325-326.


R. Kent Greenawalt, New York City, for appellant.

Thomas Penfield Jackson, Washington, D.C., for appellees.

Mr. Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).