In Williamson v. State, the Georgia Supreme Court held that in order for a term of court to count toward the two-term limit imposed by the speedy trial statute, it is only necessary that jurors are called, have appeared, and have not yet been discharged during the term in which the demand is filed.
On November 2, 2011, Williamson filed a speedy trial demand pursuant to O.C.G.A. §17-7-170. The statute provides that any defendant against whom an indictment or accusation is filed may enter a demand for speedy trial “at the court term at which the indictment or accusation is filed or at the next succeeding regular court term thereafter…” After making such a motion, if the defendant is not tried when the demand is made or at the next regular court term, “provided that at both court terms there were juries impaneled and qualified to try the defendant, the defendant shall be absolutely discharged and acquitted of the offense charged in the indictment or accusation.” On January 25, 2012, Williamson filed a motion for discharge and acquittal pursuant to O.C.G.A. §17-7-170 (b).
Under the plain meaning of the statute, when a defendant files a speedy trial demand, the State has two terms to try the defendant. A term during which no juries are impaneled and qualified to try the case does not count. As an example, the Court said that if jurors have been dismissed and are not subject to recall when the demand is filed, the term in which the demand is filed does not count toward the two-term requirement.
The defendant filed his speedy trial demand at the end of the September term. The question here was whether there were juries impaneled and qualified during the remainder of the September term. The Court of Appeals had held that the term did not count because there were only five jurors available on the day that the demand was filed, which is not enough for a criminal trial. The other jurors who had been summoned were committed to other courtrooms that day.
The Supreme Court reversed, pointing out that the statute does not require that courts determine how many jurors were actually available to try the case, or whether the court had time to try the defendant. For purposes of the statute, the Supreme Court held that “impaneled” means jurors who have been summoned, have appeared for service, and have not yet been discharged. The Court pointed out that this does not mean that the defendant must actually be tried during the remainder of the first term, but rather that the first term will count toward the two-term limit for purposes of the speedy trial statute.
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