At 12:55 p.m. on Dec. 6, 1972, Oliver H. Reeder, a patient in the drug ward at the Washington Veteran Hospital, was shot and killed in the hospital.
Twenty-five minutes later, Willie C. Anderson Jr., another patient at the hospital, was arrested and charged with murder. At 7:15 p.m. Dec. 6, Archie L. Lonon, Anderson's stepbrother, also was arrested and charged with murder.
According to indictments returned later, Lonon was the gunman. Anderson was charged with stealing drugs from the hospital as well as being charged with murder.
So far, these charges remain unresolved, for neither defendant has yet been put on trial. Both have filed motions to have the indictments dismissed on the ground that they have been denied their constitutional right to a fair and speedy trial. Prosecutors have opposed these motions.
Whatever defense and prwsecution attorneys may dissgree on, it is undisputed that the D.C. Court of Appeals took 26 months to decide an "expedited" appeal taken by the government in a pre-trial matter.
Attorneys for both sides have focussed on this delay. The defense has argued that the government is responsible for the 26 months, since the government took the appeal. The prosecution has responded that it should not be penalized for the actions of the Court of Appeals, whose inner workings are not a matter of public record.
What the Court of Appeals had to decide was whether the testimony of a security guard at Veterans Hospital should be barred at the trial. The question came up because a D.C. police officer who had interviewed the guard has lost the notes he had taken at that time.
On Sept. 12, 1974, the case was argued before a three-judge panel consisting of Judges Catherine B. Kelly, Austin L. Fickling and Stanley S. Harris. On Nov. 12, 1976, they issued a six-page opinion in which they said the security guard's testimony was adminissible. They sent the case back to Judge William E. Stewart Jr. for trial.
By that time, a defense investigator had died. Attorneys for Anderson and charges for want of a speedy trial. The death of the investigator, they said, had damaged their case.
On Jan. 24 and Feb. 18, Judge Stewart held hearings on the motions to dismiss.
Since rulings from the Superior Court go to the D.C. Court of Appeals, all parties treated the subject of the 26 months taken to decide the earlier question with some caution.
Phillip L. Kellogg, Anderson's attorney, stated in a brief that "the delay was the product of an apparent disregard (by the Court of Appeals) of the congressional mandate of expedited treatment of pretrial criminal appeals."
He presented an analysis that showed that the three judges in the Anderson-Lanon case had taken part in 282 cases that had been argued after the Anderson-Lonon appeal by the government and decided before it.
Last Friday, Judge Stewart issued an opinion and order in which he corrected that Anderson and Lonon go on trial for the murder of Oliver H. Reeder on April 20.
He said he would decide when the evidence had been presented at the trial whether the death of the defense investigator had deprived the defendents of a fair trial.