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United States v. Starks

United States District Court, D. Kansas

March 23, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
DEVONTE JEMELL STARKS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HOLLY L. TEETER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The government seeks continuance of the trial set for April 1, 2019, so that Devonte Jemell Starks can be tried with his alleged co-conspirators who were named in a superseding indictment filed March 6, 2019. Mr. Starks opposes the continuance, again asserting his speedy trial rights, and seeks to sever his trial. Given the unique circumstances and procedural posture of the case, the Court denies the government's motion to continue and retains the April 1, 2019 trial date set in the Trial Order.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On November 14, 2018, a grand jury returned a three-count indictment charging Mr. Starks with drug conspiracy and other drug charges. Doc. 1. Mr. Starks was the sole defendant, and the indictment did not name the alleged co-conspirators. But the grand jury returned two other indictments that same day in different cases, charging Toya Shaneen Avery, Lamika Devon Watt, and Kevin Darnell Scott with the same charges. See Doc. 43 at 8 (citing case numbers).

         Mr. Starks was arrested and arraigned on January 15, 2019. At his first status conference on February 26, 2019, Mr. Starks asserted his right to a speedy trial. The Court set trial for April 1, 2019, which-at that time-was one day before his speedy trial deadline. The government agreed to this trial date but noted that Ms. Avery, one of the alleged (but un-named at that time) co-conspirators, had recently been arrested in a separate case and that it might seek a continuance based on her arrest.

         On March 6, 2019, the grand jury returned a superseding indictment in the instant case with the same charges but adding Ms. Avery, Ms. Watt, and Mr. Scott as co-defendants. The superseding indictment was unsealed on March 18, 2019. Mr. Starks and Ms. Avery made their initial appearances on this superseding indictment on March 19, 2019. At that hearing, Mr. Starks again asserted his right to a speedy trial.

         That same day, the government filed the instant motion requesting a continuance of the trial date for an unspecified amount of time so that all co-defendants could be tried in a single trial. Doc. 25. Mr. Starks filed an opposition and requested severance. Doc. 38. And the government filed a reply.[1] Doc. 43. The Court is now prepared to rule.

         II. ANALYSIS

         The issues before the Court are whether the government has shown that a continuance is warranted and, if not, whether Mr. Starks's trial should be severed from his co-defendants and proceed as scheduled.

         A. Motion to Continue

         District courts have the inherent authority to manage their dockets with a view toward the efficient and expedient resolution of cases. Dietz v. Bouldin, 136 S.Ct. 1885, 1892 (2016). This includes the discretion to grant or deny continuances. United States v. Dowlin, 408 F.3d 647, 663 (10th Cir. 2005). Although not cited by the government in its motion, the Court considers four factors in deciding whether to grant a continuance:

(1) the diligence of the party requesting the continuance; (2) the likelihood that the continuance, if granted, would accomplish the purpose underlying the party's expressed need for the continuance; (3) the inconvenience to the opposing party, its witnesses, and the court resulting from the continuance; [and] (4) the need asserted for the continuance and the harm that [the moving party] might suffer as a result of the district court's denial of the continuance.

Id.

         Considering these factors, the government has not met its burden to justify a continuance. First, as to the diligence of the moving party, this factor weighs against the government. Although the government did suggest at the status conference that it might seek a continuance, it waited three weeks before filing its motion. The government has not provided any explanation for this delay, nor has it explained what-if anything-changed in that time period. Although the government half-heartedly points to the superseding indictment as justification, this purported justification only further ...


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