United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON GOVERNMENT'S MOTION FOR
RECONSIDERATION OF THE COURT'S ORDER CONCERNING TRIAL
Richard G. Stearns UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
motion for reconsideration is DENIED. While I expect the time
limits the court has set to be respected, I recognize that in
criminal cases, time limits, while permissible (and even
encouraged), are not meant to be enforced inflexibly.
Circumstances, and considerations of fairness, may require an
adjustment in the time allotted as the trial progresses.
See Sec'y of Labor v. DeSisto, 929 F.2d 789, 795
(1st Cir. 1991).
court observed in announcing its intention to impose time
limits in the trial of United States v. Glenn Chin,
14-cr-10363-RGS-2, Dkt #926:
The court's discretion must be guided by an assessment of
the complexity of the case to ensure that the parties can
“present sufficient evidence on which to base a
reliable judgment.” DeSisto, 929 F.2d at 796.
For example, the court cannot arbitrarily exclude or limit
witnesses. See, e.g., United States v. Colomb, 419
F.3d 292, 299-302 (5th Cir. 2005); DeSisto, 929 F.2d
at 794-796. In the criminal context, time limits must also
account for special considerations not present in civil
cases. In particular, a court must respect a defendant's
right to testify in his own defense and his right to confront
the witnesses against him. See United States v.
Morrison, 833 F.3d 491, 504-05 (5th Cir. 2016),
cert. denied, 2017 WL 670543 (Feb. 21, 2017). The
court must also respect the prosecution's prerogative to
choose the offenses to try, see United States v.
DeCologero, 364 F.3d 12, 23-25 (1st Cir. 2004);
United States v. Zabawa, 39 F.3d 279, 283-85 (10th
Cir. 1994); as well as the government's need to meet its
burden of proof on each count, see Colomb, 419 F.3d
Id., Dkt #926 at 4-5 (Hereinafter Chin Trial Limits
the imposition of time limits plays a meaningful role and
“serves several beneficial purposes, ” as I
stated in that same order:
As a practical matter, it enables the court to efficiently
manage its docket. See DeSisto, 929 F.3d at 795-96.
It also recognizes and ameliorates the substantial burden a
drawn-out trial places on jurors. See United States v.
Cousar, 2007 WL 4456798, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 16, 2007).
Finally, it promotes a more efficient presentation of the
case, which not only improves the quality of jury
comprehension, see United States v. Warner, 506 F.3d
517, 521-24 (7th Cir. 2007) (op. dissenting from denial of
rehearing en banc), but also eliminates “[n]umerous
objections or sua sponte interruptions by the court
to debate what evidence is repetitious or cumulative, ”
United States v. Reaves, 636 F.Supp. 1575, 1580
(E.D. Ky. 1986). As the court's present and past
experience teaches, time limits focus the presentations of
the attorneys to the benefit of the jurors, the court, and
ultimately the lawyers themselves.
Chin Trial Limits Order at 2-3.
note that the government does not always assemble its trial
plans with a surveyor's precision, but more typically
overestimates the amount of trial time that a case will
require. For example, in the recently concluded Chin trial, I
was informed that the government's case-in-chief (under
the same constraints imposed here) would require in excess of
100 hours of trial time to present - in fact the government
used less than 45 hours and nothing that should have been
said was left unsaid.
more philosophical note, I will repeat what was in the Chin
Trial Limits Order - which issued as the trial of Barry
Cadden, Glenn Chin's co-defendant (14-cr-10363-RGS-1),
drifted into its third month:
The court has additional concerns about the phenomenon of
megatrials, that is, trials the duration of which is measured
in months rather than weeks. These trials, which consume an
inordinate amount of the court's time and focus,
inevitably have an impact on the rights of other litigants
who have equally pressing matters that do not get the
attention they deserve as a result. They also drain the
resources of the court, both financially and in person-hours,
a burden that ultimately falls on taxpayers. And for the
increasingly rare defendant who can afford a defense in a
lengthy criminal trial, megatrials impose crushing costs and
even the Hobson's choice between bankruptcy and
vindication. Of greater concern, megatrials effectively
eliminate from the available venire those jurors who cannot
afford to take extended absences from their jobs, or who
cannot afford the extra costs of child or parental care that
months of service may entail, leaving largely jurors who are
either retired or who, in a few fortunate instances, have
employers willing to fund unlimited jury service. This risks
undermining the representativeness of the jury eventually
selected to serve. Megatrials finally tax the resources of
the government itself by encouraging the overindictment of
cases and by drawing prosecutorial attention from other cases
of equally pressing public concern.
Chin Trial Limits Order at 3-4.
larger concerns are as lively today as they were then -
perhaps even more so as the megatrial phenomenon continues to
clog, and ...