A New Orleans man who has spent nearly eight years in jail awaiting trial on a drug charge should soon be released, according to the Advocate.
Kevin Smith was arrested in 2010 when police say they discovered crack cocaine inside a safe in his home. Because Smith was on parole for an unrelated drug conviction, he was denied bail. A series of delays saw Smith spending the better part of a decade behind bars.
First, the charges were dismissed and new charges brought after prosecutors discovered evidence that should have been turned over to Smith’s defense team. This restarted the clock on the statutory two-year deadline to try the case. Then, hurricane Isaac hit. Due to a state law established after hurricane Katrina, the two-year window was restarted again. In 2012, the case was transferred to a different department and lost in the shuffle. Years later, Smith was offered a plea deal but rejected it, maintaining his innocence in the case.
“He could have come home as early as January of 2015,” Smith’s attorney Martin Regan told the Advocate. “There’s a man who just steadfastly said, ‘I don’t care, you can keep me. I’m not guilty, I want a trial.’ ”
On Monday, a district court judge ordered Smith’s release after an appeals court ruled that prosecutors violated his right to a speedy trial. He should be released within a few days. Smith will have served more time in custody than any person awaiting trial for a nonviolent crime in New Orleans.
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