State v. Farmer, 376 N.C. 407 (Dec. 18, 2020)

In this case involving charges of first-degree sex offense with a child and indecent liberties, the court found that the procedural circumstances were “unsettling” but did not constitute an infringement upon the defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial.  In May 2012, the defendant was indicted for offenses that allegedly occurred in March 2012.  The defendant’s trial was not calendared for approximately five years and, at a July 2017 hearing on the defendant’s speedy trial motion to dismiss, an assistant clerk of court testified that there had been no trial activity in the defendant’s case from the date of indictment in May 2012 to January 2017.  Applying the four-part test from Barker v. Wingo, the court found: (1) the length of delay between indictment and trial in this case was “striking and clearly raises a presumption” that the defendant’s speedy trial right may have been breached; (2) an assessment of the reason for the delay, largely attributed to a crowded docket and limited prosecutorial resources, “modestly [favored]” the defendant; (3) the defendant’s belated assertion of his right to a speedy trial, occurring nearly five years after his indictment, “weigh[ed] significantly against” the defendant; and (4) that the defendant did not suffer prejudice because of the delay.  Engaging in a “difficult and sensitive balancing process” of the four Barker factors, the court held that the defendant’s right to a speedy trial was not violated.