For want of a courtroom, Firme Hajjaj almost went free. Almost.
After chronic delays last summer, Riverside County had come down to its last day — July 28 to be exact — to try Hajjaj on drug charges. Hajjaj’s speedy trial rights would require dismissal the next day.
About 4:15 p.m. on the 28th, a courtroom finally came open in Indio. But that was 76 miles away from Riverside, where Hajjaj, his lawyer and the prosecutor were sitting at the time.
You would think that high-speed merriment would ensue. It does not … after the jump.
Even at 65 mph, that would take one hour and 16 minutes of travel. And the courtroom would close at 5 p.m. So Riverside County Superior Court Judge Thomas Cahraman decided it was too late, even rejecting the prosecution’s suggestion that an Indio-based deputy DA rush over and basically say, “Here!”
The next day, Cahraman dismissed the charges against Hajjaj.
Not so fast, San Diego’s Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled Monday: The law allows extension of speedy trial rights for good cause and the remoteness of an available courtroom meets that standard.
“In granting Hajjaj’s motion for dismissal,” Justice Gilbert Nares wrote, “the court overlooked the fact that in a large and populous county like [Riverside], the administration of justice and efficient utilization of limited judicial resources may require the parties to a criminal proceeding to travel to a distant court facility.”
Ain’t going to happen in San Francisco! While Riverside County is 7,207 square miles, SF is a measly 46.6.
Even Muni could get you to another courthouse in time.
— Mike McKee