5:30 p.m. ET, August 25, 2023
Here's how speedy trial demands will impact Georgia's election interference case
By CNN's Hannah Rabinowitz
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis asked a judge Thursday to schedule a trial for Oct. 23, 2023, for all 19 defendants in the Georgia election interference case.
As part of her motion, Willis noted that one of the defendants, Kenneth Chesebro, requested a speedy trial under Georgia's Speedy Trial Act.
In response, the judge presiding over the case scheduled Chesebro's trial to begin on October 23 – but the judge clarified that the order does not currently apply to other co-defendants.
Late Friday, another defendant, attorney Sidney Powell, also called for a speedy trial, according to a new filing.
How does the expedited trial law work in Georgia?
Every defendant has the right to a “speedy trial”.
The right to a speedy trial is enshrined in the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states: “In all prosecutions, the defendant shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the state and district in which he serves.” A criminal offense must have been committed, the district must have been previously established by law and informed of the nature and cause of the charge; be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have a compulsory procedure for obtaining witnesses in his favor and to have the assistance of a lawyer for his defense.”
Georgia, like all other states, has its own law that arises from this constitutional right. Under Georgia law, every defendant has the right to request a trial within weeks of his or her arraignment.
The date their trial begins is then determined by the court's “conditions” – the schedule for when each state court hears cases. In Fulton County, new “terms” begin on the first Monday of every other month, provided a jury is available.
If the trial does not begin by this date, the defendant will automatically be acquitted of all charges.
Still, delays can occur due to pretrial disputes and other problems, and prosecutors typically do not file charges in high-profile cases unless they are prepared to move quickly to trial.
How does this affect Trump's case?
A defendant charged during the current term who exercises his or her right to a speedy trial must appear in court by the first Monday in November.
That's why, after Chesebro asserted his right to a speedy trial, Willis asked the judge to set a trial date for October – and the judge simply ordered Chesebro's trial to begin in October. No trial dates have yet been set for any of the other defendants.
Some legal experts doubt whether a trial date in October is realistic.
Other defendants in Trump's case believe the October date is too early, and forcing other defendants to prepare for trial in such a short time could raise constitutional issues, according to CNN legal analyst Elie Honig.
Trump's lawyers told the judge they will reject the proposed Oct. 23 trial date and seek to separate his Georgia case from Chesebro, who wanted to expedite the trial date.
Andrew Fleischman, a partner at the Georgia law firm Sessions & Fleischman, said he doubts the judge will force the other defendants to commit to a trial in October. He noted that there was a lot of evidence in the case, including “millions of pages” of documents.