In an editorial, the New York Times says the Supreme Court failed to support an “essential American right” on Monday when it refused to consider an appeal of a Louisiana conviction of Jonathan Boyer for murder and armed robbery. The court “should have said that every state has the duty to pay for counsel for indigent criminal defendants and ensure them a speedy trial,” the Times said. But its five conservative justices refused to decide the case, leaving Boyer’s conviction and life sentence in place.
Boyer spent more than seven years in the Calcasieu Parish jail, waiting to be tried. For the first five years, the state did not have the money to pay for the two defense attorneys required in a death penalty case. The trial went forward only after the state decided to reduce the first-degree murder charge in favor of a lesser charge, which made Boyer's case less expensive to defend. Boyer argued that the delay violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. But the state appeals court ruled that the delay was mainly because of a factor “beyond the control of the state” — a “funding crisis” — and that there was no constitutional violation.