Delay in the administration of the criminal system is caused in substantial part by the lack of progress towards disposition of cases after indictment by the grand jury. Though excessive and generally nonproductive time is consumed by the formal charging of a defendant, it is in the post-indictment period that months of delay become years of delay. The time after indictment could and should be utilized to limit and elucidate the issues of actual dispute so that the prosecution and the defense can negotiate as informed equals on a plea of guilty or prepare to try the case in an efficient and speedy manner.
The case of Ralph Johnson, discussed in Chapter 1, is illustrative of both tremendously wasteful delay and the risks attendant on a failure to use the time for valid purposes. Initially indicted for first degree murder, a capital offense, Johnson was ineligible for bail. After nearly a year in jail and just days before the trial was scheduled to begin, the indictment was amended to second degree murder, a bailable offense carrying a penalty of life imprisonment 1 with parole available after ten years.2 At the same time, a prosecutor was offering, and the defense attorneys were urging Johnson to accept, a plea of guilty to the charge of manslaughter, which carries a penalty of one to twenty years 3 with parole available after ten months.4____________________