Washington Law Review


On July 6, 1966, the wife and an infant daughter of Eric L. Haga were found strangled to death in the Haga home. Although Haga had slept in the house the night of the murders, no evidence linked him directly to the crime. There was, however, evidence that Haga and his wife had separated the previous summer, that Mrs. Haga had lived with another man during the separation, and that Haga had taken out a family life insurance policy shortly before the murders. The prosecuting attorney chose not to prosecute Haga; more than five years later, however, a newly elected prosecutor reopened the case and filed two counts of first degree murder. A jury convicted Haga on both counts. Haga appealed, arguing that the five year delay between the commission of the crimes and the filing of the murder charges had denied him due process of law under the federal and state constitutions. The state freely admitted that no new evidence had surfaced in the intervening five years, and that the only reason for the filing of charges in 1971 was the change of prosecutors. It was acknowledged that the delay had caused defense witnesses to become unavailable, and that the delay was long enough "to cause concern about the dimming of memories and lost evidence." The Washington Court of Appeals defined what it concluded to be the applicable due process test and held that the five year delay in filing charges did not deny the defendant due process because an evaluation of the entire proceedings failed to reveal a showing of "actual prejudice" to the defendant sufficient to overcome the legislative intent expressed by the absence of a statute of limitations for the crime of murder.

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