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Grant v. United States

September 02, 2004


Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (F-8984-91) (Hon. Noël Kramer, Trial Judge) (Hon. Rafael Diaz, Motions Judge).

Before Terry and Ruiz, Associate Judges, and Ferren, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ruiz, Associate Judge

Argued February 12, 2004

A jury convicted Anthony W. Grant in 1996 of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. See D.C. Code § 33-541 (a)(1) (1981), re-codified at D.C. Code § 48-904.01 (a)(1) (2001). He asks us to reverse his conviction and dismiss the charge with prejudice on the ground that his statutory right to a speedy trial under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers was violated. See D.C. Code § 24-701 (1991), re-codified at D.C. Code § 24-801 (2001). After studying the record, we conclude that the agreement does not apply to the trial of the particular charge at issue in this appeal. The judgment of conviction accordingly stands affirmed. We emphasize, however, the responsibilities of the Superior Court and the prosecuting authorities, including the United States Attorney and the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, when acting on a detainer lodged on a charge brought in the courts of the District of Columbia.


We begin with a brief overview of the controlling law. The Interstate Agreement on Detainers ("IAD") is an interstate compact signed by the United States on its own behalf and on behalf of the District of Columbia.*fn1 See Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act, Pub. L. No. 91-538, 84 Stat. 1397 (1970), codified at 18 U.S.C. app. § 2 (1994); D.C. Code § 24-701, re-codified at D.C. Code § 24-801; see also D.C. Code § 23-101 (c) (1989) (providing with exceptions not relevant here that criminal prosecutions in the District of Columbia shall be conducted in the name of the United States by the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia). Because the IAD is a congressionally-approved interstate compact, it is a federal law subject to federal construction. See Cuyler v. Adams, 449 U.S. 433, 441 (1981). The United States Supreme Court's interpretations of the IAD are thus binding upon state courts. As its name suggests, the compact concerns detainers, which are documents "filed with [an] institution in which a prisoner is serving a sentence, advising that [the prisoner] is wanted to face pending criminal charges in another jurisdiction." United States v. Mauro, 436 U.S. 340, 359 (1978)(quoting H.R. REP. No. 91-1018, at 2 (1970); S. REP. No. 91-1356, at 2 (1970), reprinted in 1970 U.S.C.C.A.N. 4864, 4865). More specifically, a detainer is "a request filed by a criminal justice agency with the institution in which a prisoner is incarcerated, asking the institution either to hold the prisoner for the agency [after his release] or to notify the agency when release of the prisoner is imminent." Carchman v. Nash, 473 U.S. 716, 719 (1985). Use of such notices predates the existence of the IAD. Indeed, it was the deleterious side effects of lodging detainers without instituting prosecution that created the need for an interstate compact. Before the IAD came into being, prisoners could not readily initiate legal proceedings to resolve detainers based upon charges arising outside the jurisdiction of their incarceration. See United States v. Bailey, 495 A.2d 756, 758 (D.C. 1985) (citing H.R. REP. No. 91-1018, at 2 (1970); S. REP. No. 91-1356, at 2 (1970)). This impotence proved unacceptable for a number of reasons. "[C]harges outstanding against a prisoner, detainers based on untried indictments, informations, or complaints[,] and difficulties in securing speedy trial of persons already incarcerated in other jurisdictions, produce uncertainties which obstruct programs of prisoner treatment and rehabilitation." D.C. Code § 24-701 art. I. In addition to the negative impact they may have on a prisoner's ability to secure and participate in rehabilitation programs, unresolved detainers adversely influence a prisoner's classification as a maximum or close custody risk, as well as his or her eligibility for work assignments, preferred living accommodations, work release programs, and parole. See Carchman, 473 U.S. at 730 n.8. To ameliorate these side effects, the IAD encourages expeditious disposition of charges and establishes cooperative procedures among party States. See D.C. Code § 24-701 art. I (stating that it is the party States' policy to encourage orderly disposition of charges and determination of the proper status of all detainers based on untried indictments, informations, or complaints).

The IAD's purpose is achieved through "two alternate and distinct mechanisms by which a prisoner against whom a detainer has been filed can be transferred to a second jurisdiction for expedited disposition of the outstanding charges." Felix v. United States, 508 A.2d 101, 104 (D.C. 1986). First, the IAD authorizes a prisoner to file a request for final disposition of outstanding charges related to a detainer, after which request the prisoner must be brought to trial in the receiving jurisdiction within one hundred and eighty days from the date the request was made unless the court grants a continuance for "good cause." See D.C. Code § 24-701 art. III (a) (stating that upon demonstration of good cause made in open court and in the presence of the prisoner or counsel, the court having jurisdiction may grant "any necessary or reasonable" continuance). The second procedure established by the IAD allows a prosecutor to initiate final disposition of the charges connected with a detainer by filing with the state penal institution where the defendant is incarcerated a request for a transfer of custody to the jurisdiction where the charges are pending. In such a case, the prisoner must be brought to trial within one hundred and twenty days of his or her physical arrival in the receiving jurisdiction, again subject to any necessary or reasonable continuance granted by the court for good cause.*fn2 See D.C. Code § 24-701 art. IV (c). As the text of Article IV (a) makes clear, two procedural prerequisites must be satisfied before a prosecutor may secure temporary custody over a prisoner for disposition of outstanding charges, namely, the filing of both a detainer and a written request for temporary custody with the officials of the foreign State penal institution. See D.C. Code § 24-701 art. IV (a). Under this regime, inmates "can force the expeditious disposition of outstanding detainers and their underlying charges[,] . . . prosecutors can more easily obtain prisoners for trial[, and] judges and prison and parole authorities can more rationally administer punishment and rehabilitation." United States v. Ford, 550 F.2d 732, 741 (2d Cir. 1977), aff'd sub nom. Mauro, 436 U.S. at 340.

In order to motivate compliance with Articles III and IV, the IAD furnishes its own sanction for the failure to try charges in a timely manner. Article V (c) provides that

[i]f the appropriate authority shall refuse or fail to accept temporary custody of said person, or in the event that an action on the indictment, information, or complaint on the basis of which the detainer has been lodged is not brought to trial within the period provided in Article III or Article IV hereof, the appropriate court of the jurisdiction where the indictment, information, or complaint has been pending shall enter an order dismissing the case with prejudice, and any detainer based thereon shall cease to be of any force or effect. D.C. Code § 24-701 art. V (c); see also 18 U.S.C. app. § 2 art. V (c). Although not universally agreed upon, this court, consistent with Article V (c)'s plain language, has not required a demonstration of prejudice before an inmate defendant may prevail in seeking to dismiss pending charges that have not been timely brought for trial. See Haigler v. United States, 531 A.2d 1236, 1240 n.5 (D.C. 1987) ("A requirement of prejudice is found neither in the [IAD] nor in its interpretations.") (citing Mauro, 436 U.S. at 364-65 (dismissal for violation of timely trial provision granted without examining whether defendant was prejudiced by delay)). But see, e.g., Nelms v. State, 532 S.W.2d 923, 927 (Tenn. 1976) (holding that dismissal of charges is not automatically required for violations of time limits in Article III or IV because of the separate language in the IAD that states that if "good cause" is shown the court may grant any necessary or reasonable continuance of trial); State v. Angelone, 837 P.2d 656, 660 (Wash. Ct. App. 1992) (applying a case-by-case approach where the court examines bad faith of the prosecutor and prejudice to the defendant in determining whether dismissal is appropriate).*fn3

Also important to a complete understanding of this case is the relationship between a detainer and a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum. The latter instrument is a writ commanding the immediate removal of a prisoner from incarceration so that he or she may be transferred into the jurisdiction from which the writ issued to stand trial on charges for crimes committed within that jurisdiction. See Carbo v. United States, 364 U.S. 611, 615 (1961). "Since the time of Ex parte Bollman, [4 Cranch 75 (1807)], the statutory authority of federal courts to issue writs of habeas corpus ad prosequendum to secure the presence, for purposes of trial, of defendants in federal criminal cases, including defendants then in state custody, has never been doubted." Mauro, 436 U.S. at 357-58. As a creation of Congress, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia has the authority under the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651 (1994), to issue ad prosequendum writs. See United States v. Palmer, 393 A.2d 143, 146 (D.C. 1978). The availability of the writ to secure a prisoner's presence at trial in the federal and D.C. judiciaries persists, moreover, undiminished by the IAD. See Mauro, 436 U.S. at 358 ("The role and functioning of the ad prosequendum writ are rooted in history, and they bear little resemblance to the typical detainer which activates the provisions of the IAD."). This does not mean, however, that these independent regimes never intermingle. The Supreme Court has determined that while a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum is not a detainer triggering the protections of the IAD, it may nonetheless serve as a request for temporary custody under Article IV (a) in those cases in which a detainer already has been filed. See Mauro, 436 U.S. at 361-62.

With this overview of the legal framework in place, we now recount the history of the events that transpired below.


On August 1, 1991, an officer with the Metropolitan Police Department working in an elevated observation post in the 1500 block of Columbia Road observed Grant engage in two separate transactions with passersby in which he was handed money in exchange for a small object that he retrieved from a paper bag lying along a public walkway. The white, rock-like contents of the bag tested positive for cocaine at the scene. Grant was arrested straightaway. On August 14, 1991, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia filed a grand jury indictment charging Grant with one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. The action was placed on the Superior Court Criminal Division's docket as case number F-8984-91. Eleven days later, on September 25, Grant was separately indicted in case number F-10939-91 on one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and one count of distribution ...

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