Was John Healy’s Speedy Trial Accurate on Daredevil?

The Daredevil episode a “Rabbit in a Snowstorm” centered on a Nelson & Murdock being hired by a mysterious company to represent a hit man named John Healy. The trial was highly expedited and the Defendant argued he gave a victim a compound fracture, and beat the victim to death with a bowling ball, in self-defense.

The defendant agreed to waive discovery, hearings, and demanded a 180.80. I asked New York Judge Matthew Sciarrino if he could discuss the accuracy of the proceedings. Here is what the good judge said:

If a defendant is arrested for a felony CPL 180.80 applies.

“Upon application of a defendant against whom a felony complaint has been filed with a local criminal court, and who, since the time of his arrest or subsequent thereto, has been held in custody pending disposition of such felony complaint, and who has been confined in such custody for a period of more than one hundred twenty hours or, in the event that a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday occurs during such custody, one hundred forty-four hours, without either a disposition of the felony complaint or commencement of a hearing thereon, the local criminal court must release him on his own recognizance unless….”

So, upon expiration of exactly 120144 hours from time of arrest (144 hours is calculated from time of arrest – 180.80 is measured in terms of hours (down to the minute), not days) unless:

The failure to dispose of the felony complaint or to commence a hearing thereon was due to the defendant’s request, action, condition or consent; or

Prior to the application, the District Attorney files a written certification that an indictment has been voted, or an indictment or direction to file a prosecutor’s information was filed by the Grand Jury; or

Good cause for not releasing the defendant from custody is shown

As was seen by the advice of the lawyer Matt Murdock, a defense attorney may often waive 180.80 to allow the DA additional time to investigate, or to negotiate a plea deal.

Now, for misdemeanors, CPL 170,70 applies and unlike 180.80 calculations, when computing the 170.70 date you must count five days from the arraignment date, not from the arrest date.  You must include the day of arraignment in your calculation and you must skip Sundays when making this calculation.

You also heard Matt Murdock refer to speedy trial. Speedy trial is not the same as 180.80/170.70. Speedy trial which is governed by section 30.30 (Statutory Speedy Trial Rights) and 30.20 (Constitutional Speedy Trial Rights).

Under 30.30, the time within which the People must effectively announce their readiness for trial (with certain statutory time period exclusion, i.e., for discovery or motions).  The time limitations within which the People must answer ready for trial are as follows:

Six months for a felony (no statutory speedy trial for Murder);

90 days for a class A misdemeanor or any unclassified misdemeanor punishable by a term of imprisonment of more than three months;

60 days for a class B misdemeanor;

30 days for a violation.

A huge “thank you” to Judge Sciarrino for explaining the procedures depicted in Daredevil.

Bowling for Acquittal

The argument of self-defense was novel to say the least. Self-defense under New York law permits the “use physical force upon another person when and to the extent he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to defend himself, herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by such other person.” NY CLS Penal § 35.15(1).

There are substantial factors that limit the use of force, such as the defendant being the one to provoke the victim or was the initial aggressor. NY CLS Penal § 35.15(1)(a) and (b).

Lawyers arguing self-defense need to prove the use of force was both what a reasonable person would do and justifiable from the defendant’s subjective state of mind. (See, Justification —What Is Reasonable Belief? By Alan D. Marrus, Acting Supreme Court Justice, Kings County, New York., General Editor, John M. Castellano, Esq., Member of New York Bar, NY CLS Penal § 35.15, Practice Insights). As such, Judge Alan D. Marrus explained:

To pass the subjective test, counsel will probably need to call the defendant as a witness to testify as to his state of mind when he committed the criminal act. The defendant’s testimony would be able to establish how the defendant perceived the situation, e.g. what he saw the victim doing, what he heard the victim saying, what he knew about the victim’s propensity for violence, and the fear the defendant experienced about an imminent danger to himself or another.

Id.

The Defense took the very risky position of NOT having the Defendant John Healy testify as to his state of mind. While it is normally dangerous for a Defendant to testify anyway, it is difficult to prove someone’s subjective belief without the Defendant’s testimony.

The Courtroom scene with Matt Murdock was cool, with dramatic lighting, and a very legal sounding argument. However, procedurally how they even got into court on the shortest murder trial ever would only happen in a comic book.

As to whether or not it violates a lawyer’s continuing duty of loyalty to dress as a vigilante and attack a former client for information on a criminal conspiracy, one can argue representation had ended, but that is another issue entirely.

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