Prosecutors may drop a case when things aren’t going their way and reserve the right to bring it back a second time, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled, 4-3, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The majority said New Orleans District Attorney Eddie Jordan did not violate a man’s right to a speedy trial by dropping a 20-month-old case in 2004 when the alleged victim failed to show up for trial — then reinstating the case three weeks later.
At issue is whether prosecutors may drop a case and charge the same defendant again at a later date. The legal term for dismissing a charge is “nolle prosequi,” Latin for wishing not to prosecute and often interpreted as a tremendous power in which prosecutors may abandon a case entirely only to hold the charge over the suspect’s head. Dissenters said the prosecutors’ tactics allow them to control the clock on an impending trial to suit their level of preparation. “In effect, the majority opinion enables the state to ‘grant itself a continuance’ by using the authority to nolle prosequi,” wrote one judge. “Now, rather than asking for a continuance and risking that the request would be denied, the state can enter a nolle prosequi.”