Dallas County career criminal could go free after appeals court agrees his right to a speedy trial was violated

Meghan Ryan, law professor at SMU's Dedman School of Law, talks about what happens when the right the a speedy trial is violated.

By Diane Jennings

A 57-year-old prison inmate and career criminal is expected to be freed after a Texas appeals court agreed that Dallas County officials violated his right to a speedy trial by taking eight years to try him on a child-molestation charge.

“It’s not a good day for Dallas County,” said Debbie Denmon, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Craig Watkins. “Craig was very upset about it.”

Marcos DeLuna, who has previous convictions for attempted murder, injury to a child and drug possession, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2010 on a charge of indecency with a child. He denied molesting the girl, who was 8 at the time.

He was indicted in 2002, but no law enforcement agency executed the arrest warrant until 2010....

The U.S. Constitution doesn’t spell out a time limit for bringing a case to trial, but “eight years is significant,” said Meghan Ryan, a law professor at Southern Methodist University. “Anything over a year is very extreme.

“There are a number of reasons why this right is enforced and is enshrined in the Bill of Rights,” she said. “The one probably most relevant here is the concern that, as time passes, the criminal defendant’s ability to make a case in his defense might be substantially impacted — evidence can be lost, witnesses’ memories fade.”...