Dec. 19, 2013 – A circuit court dismissed homicide and other felony charges against Malcolm Butler because he did not receive a trial within 120 days. But a state appeals court recently ruled that Butler’s trial was properly delayed for good cause.
The Intrastate Detainer Act, Wis. Stat. section 971.11, requires prosecutors to bring a trial within 120 days of a prison inmate’s request for “prompt disposition of the case.”
When Butler was charged with homicide, armed robbery and other felonies in 2009, authorities revoked his probation and sent him back to prison.
Butler requested prompt disposition of the case under the Intrastate Detainer Act. But he also requested a speedy trial under Wisconsin’s speedy trial statute, section 971.10, which requires a felony defendant’s trial to take place within 90 days of a demand.
The Intrastate Detainer Act is “subject to” the speedy trial statute, which allows a court to grant a continuance past 90 days “if the ends of justice served by taking action outweigh the best interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial.”
The trial court granted a “good cause” continuance because a key state witness had been hospitalized before the trial date, and there was newly discovered evidence.
Ultimately, Butler’s trial was held more than 120 days after his initial “prompt disposition request,” and he was convicted. However, Butler filed a postconviction motion to vacate the conviction, arguing the prosecutor violated the Intrastate Detainer Act.
The circuit court, through a different judge, dismissed the conviction “without prejudice,” which would allow the prosecutor to re-file the charges. The state appealed.
In State v. Butler, 2012AP2243-CR (Dec. 18, 2013), a three-judge panel for the District II Court of Appeals ruled that it was error for the lower court to dismiss the conviction.
The Intrastate Detainer Act is “subject to” the speedy trial statute, the panel explained, so a continuance for speedy trial purposes also applies for Detainer Act purposes.
“The ‘subject to’ language in Wis. Stat. § 971.11(2) of the Intrastate Detainer Act incorporates a good cause continuance under Wis. Stat. § 971.10(3)(a) of the Speedy Trial Statute,” wrote Judge Lisa Neubauer.
“While the circuit court did not explicitly address Butler’s intrastate detainer request, we see no harm, as the request and its attendant time limit were subject to the speedy trial grounds and authorization for a continuance,” Judge Neubauer clarified.