State v. Johnson, ___ N.C. App. ___, 795 S.E.2d 126 (Dec. 20, 2016)

In a case where the trial was delayed because of backlogs at the crime lab and because of issues with counsel, the trial court properly denied the defendant’s speedy trial motion, made shortly before trial. Applying the Barker v. Wingo four-part speedy trial analysis, the court began by noting that the 28-month delay between arrest and trial raises a question of reasonableness requiring the court to consider the additional Barker factors. As to the second factor--reason for the delay--it was undisputed that the last four months of delay resulted from issues with defense counsel. Delay caused by the defendant’s indecision about counsel, counsel’s lapse in communicating with the defendant, and counsel’s scheduling conflicts should not be weighed against the State. The primary cause of the delay was a backlog at the state crime lab, a matter over which the prosecutor had no control. Acknowledging that governmental responsibility for delay should be weighed against the State, the court concluded that the defendant failed to make a prima facie showing that either the prosecution or the crime lab negligently or purposefully underutilized resources available to prepare the State’s case for trial. Thus, the 18 months of delay caused by crime lab backlogs was a “neutral reason.” Turning to the third factor in the analysis—the defendant’s assertion of a speedy trial right—the court held that the “eleventh-hour nature of Defendant’s speedy trial motion carries minimal weight in his favor.” The court was also unpersuaded by the defendant’s argument with respect to the fourth factor in the analysis, prejudice.