Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.
State v. Taylor, 538 P.2d 1375 (Kan. 1975).
This case addresses the following issue:
What happens if they hold you too long without your first appearance?
This case explored the issue of what happens when a defendant is held too long without a first appearance. In exploring this issue, the court concluded that unwarranted delay in bringing accused before a judge violated principles of due process only where the delay had in some way prejudiced the accused’s right to a fair trial. Id. at 1378.
On May 2, 1973, a seven-year-old first grade student was on her way home. Id. at 1377. As the young girl walked down the sidewalk, the defendant got out of his pickup truck, blocked her path, picked her up around the waist, and placed her in the passenger’s side of the truck. Id. While leaving the area, several students saw the driver pushing the young girl down in the seat and one of the students was able to obtain the license number. Id. The young girl began to cry and the defendant threatened her with a knife. Id. at 1378. After arriving at a spot along a river, the defendant got out and threw the girl into the water. Id. Although the young girl could not swim, she kept her head above water and was able to scramble out of the water onto a sandbar. Id. After the defendant saw this, he found her hiding and took her back to the original launch point where he threw her into the water again. Id. However, this time the girl was able to escape and was found by a woman who lived in the area. Id.
After the girl gave a description of the defendant to the police, the officers were able to use the description of the man and his license number to track him down and arrest him. Id. After a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of aggravated kidnapping. Id.
The defendant argued that he was brought before a judge with unnecessary delay. Id. In particular, the record indicated that there was a 42-hour span of time from the defendant getting arrested to being brought in front of a judge. Id. However, during that 42 hours, the defendant acquired counsel, appeared in a line-up where he was identified as the driver of the truck, and was questioned by the police on at least two occasions. Id.
While the court expressed their strong disapproval of unwarranted delay in taking a prisoner before a judge after arrest, they did state that delay was not in and of itself a denial of due process unless it in some way prejudiced the defendant’s right to a fair trial. Id. Furthermore, the court noted that the burden to show prejudice by the delay was upon the defendant. Id. In this case, the court concluded that the defendant made no attempt to assume this burden because he made no claim that anything happened during the 42-hour delay which would not have happened after he had been presented to the judge. Id.