On March 28, 2016, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Betterman v. Montana. Brandon Thomas Betterman pled to and was sentenced for the offense of bail-jumping. He argued on appeal that a 14-month delay between the entry of his guilty plea and his sentencing violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. The Supreme Court of Montana affirmed Betterman’s conviction and sentence, holding that the constitutional right to a speedy trial does not extend from conviction to sentencing. A criminal defendant still retains, the court concluded, a Fourteenth Amendment due process right to have sentence imposed in a timely manner, without unreasonable delay--and the delay in this case was unacceptable--but any resulting prejudice to Betterman was speculative and not substantial and demonstrable.
The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently granted certiorari on the following issue: whether the Sixth Amendment’s Speedy Trial Clause applies to the sentencing phase of a criminal prosecution, protecting a criminal defendant from inordinate delay in final disposition of his case.
To discuss the case, we have Anthony Johnstone, who is Associate Professor at University of Montana Alexander Blewett III School of Law.