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Public defender calls prosecuting 24-year-old case breach of right to speedy trial

Staff Report • May 27, 2009 at 12:00 AM

According to the Bristol Herald Courier a judge has filed an order sending a 24-year-old murder case to an appellate court to determine whether the prosecution against a mentally retarded defendant should go forward.Sullivan County Criminal Court Judge Robert Montgomery filed the two-page order last week, seven months after verbally declaring he would route the case against Willie Clyde Puckett to the Criminal Court of Appeals before further action at the trial court level.Pushing for the appellate court’s review is Sullivan County Public Defender Steven Wallace, who argues that prosecuting his client after 24 years violates his constitutional right to a speedy trial. If the higher court reverses Montgomery’s decision to allow the case to go forward, it could end the prosecution before the case goes to trial.In his long-pending written opinion, Montgomery approves sending the case to the appellate court for review out of a concern that a reversal after trial would waste state resources.If the Court of Criminal Appeals rules that the indictment should have been dismissed before trial, “then there would have been needless, expensive and protracted litigation from the trial since the likelihood of conviction is very high,” Montgomery wrote.

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