Delays take the 'speedy' out of trial

Now that the Ronald J. Spears trial is finally over, could someone in your department find out why it took nearly two years for this case to come to trial? Is that the normal delay between crime and judgment? Or is this case somehow special?

— Bob H., Medford

For those who may not recognize the name, Bob is referring to the case of the 63-year-old Illinois Valley miner who was convicted earlier this month by a Josephine County jury of a Measure 11, first-degree assault charge in the shooting of a Gold Hill man, Gregory Glen Graybill.

The incident happened as the pair engaged in a verbal altercation after Graybill and his friends drove into — and then out of — Spears' mining camp during an off-roading expedition on April 5, 2009. Spears shot Graybill at point-blank range, basically destroying Graybill's right arm. Spears then racked another round in his shotgun and continued to threaten others in the group.

Here's the deal, Bob. While our Constitution ostensibly affords citizens the right to a speedy trial, the wheels of justice can sometimes grind awfully slowly. And sometimes those delays are at the request of the defendant.

We put queries out to Josephine County prosecutor Matt Corey and to Spears' defense attorney, Daniel Simcoe, to find out the particulars in this case.

"This was not unusual," said Corey. "The justice system is not a well-oiled machine. It works in the end. But it's not speedy."

Court records show that, like many cases, this one's slow-moving path to the courtroom involved attorney changes and multiple trial cancellations.

In this case, the defendant waived his right to a speedy trial on April 8, 2009. A few weeks later, Spears, who proved he was unable to pay for his own legal team, was appointed one by the court. By October, Spears was granted a new attorney, which was when Simcoe came on the case. Several trial dates came and went due to scheduling conflicts and witness availability. At least one delay in 2010 came over the objections of the prosecution.

Spears' sentencing is slated for 8:30 a.m. on March 17. Simcoe has stated he may appeal the case on behalf of Spears.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to

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