United States v. MacDonald

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Fort Bragg

DOCKET NO.: 80-1582
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 456 US 1 (1982)
ARGUED: Dec 07, 1981
DECIDED: Mar 31, 1982

Alan I. Horowitz - on behalf of the Petitioner
Ralph S. Spritzer - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

In May 1970, Jeffrey MacDonald, an army captain living at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was charged with the murders of his wife and two children. However, after an investigation by the Army Criminal Investigation Division (“CID”), the murder charges were dropped, and MacDonald was given an honorable discharge. Following MacDonald’s discharge, the U.S. Justice Department asked the Army CID to continue its investigation into the murders, and in 1972 the CID created a report on the murders that recommended further investigation into MacDonald. After evaluating the report, the Justice Department presented the case to a grand jury in the fall of 1974, which returned an indictment for MacDonald in January of 1975 that charged him again with all three murders.

MacDonald moved to dismiss the indictment and argued that the delay between the original murder charge in 1970 and the grand jury indictment in 1974 violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. The district court denied MacDonald’s motion. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit reversed the district court by finding that the time-gap between the 1972 CID report to the Justice Department and the 1974 convening of a grand jury infringed on MacDonald’s Sixth Amendment rights. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari, reversed and remanded. The Court held that MacDonald could not appeal the denial of a motion to dismiss on the basis of the 6th amendment right to speedy trial until after the trial has been completed. MacDonald was tried and convicted of all three murders. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit again held the indictment violated MacDonald’s Sixth Amendment rights.



Was MacDonald’s Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial violated by the gap between the 1972 CID’s report recommending further investigation into MacDonald and the re-filing of those same charges in 1975?

Media for United States v. MacDonald

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 07, 1981 in United States v. MacDonald

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 31, 1982 in United States v. MacDonald

Warren E. Burger:

I have the judgment and opinion of the Court to announce in United States against McDonald and for reasons stated in the opinion for the Court filed with the clerk today.

The judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is reversed and the case is remanded to that Court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Justice Stevens concurred in the judgment.

Justice Marshall, with whom Justice Brennan and Justice Blackman joined, filed a dissenting opinion.