State legislature hears debate over an act regarding speedy trials

Published: May. 10, 2023 at 4:31 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - The Judiciary committee of the state legislature held a public hearing on LD 1771 or an act regarding speedy trials.

According to the legislature, this bill would establish time limits for the start of a defendant’s criminal trial and would provide remedies for when time limits have been violated.

Supporters of the bill say it would provide a solution to the backlog of trials in the state as well as protect individuals incarcerated who aren’t found guilty.

However, opposers of the bill voiced their concerns with time restraints specifically regarding homicide cases.

They say although it may be a lengthy process, each examination of every trial must be evaluated correctly and that takes time.

A representative for Attorney Walter McKee read a statement on his behalf and said, “what LD 1771 would do is set specific and important timelines.”

“This is a solution to the backlog problems that existed even before COVID and most importantly protects people who are incarcerated and spending long pre-trial delays in cases where they’re often times found not guilty or end up with credit for time served sentences that are longer than they ever should’ve been just because of how long they stayed in custody,” McKee said.

Michael Zabarsky, lieutenant of the Maine State Police Lab voiced concerns over time limits that the bill would propose.

He said their concerns would be understood best if lawmakers considered how homicide cases are conducted in the state.

“Our goal at the lab is to complete homicide evidence examinations in each section and meet with investigators and prosecutors about those results in 180 days to six months,” said Zabarsky. “Currently we struggle to meet that goal since we’re operating at capacity. If this bill were to pass, our lab will need to complete exams for each item of evidence in each section of the lab in less than half the time regardless of the number of items delivered for processing.”

Lawmakers will decide on the bill later.