Best Defender Bytes:

December 22, 2009

The December 21, 2009 Polanski Decision - Case No. B217290, LET’S MOVE ON

The Court of Appeal holds that trial court correctly refused to dismiss Mr. Polanski’s case even though allegations of misconduct existed:

“We have thoroughly reviewed the record of the proceedings in this matter as well as the allegations made by Polanski of serious misconduct by the original judge and a member of the district attorney’s office.  Even though the allegations, if ultimately found to be true, present a very significant systemic issue of injustice and misconduct, we cannot conclude that the trial court abused its discretion here in precluding Polanski from affirmatively seeking relief from the trial court until he submitted to its jurisdiction.  Contrary to Polanski’s argument, the trial court did not simply deny Polanski’s request for relief because of his status as a fugitive, without weighing any equitable factors.  To the contrary, the court exercised its discretion in reaching its conclusion, and its thoroughly considered ruling was in no respect arbitrary, capricious, or patently absurd.”

The Court of Appeal Finds the Availability of Legal Remedies Other than Flight

“Polanski argues that the trial court should be precluded from invoking the disentitlement doctrine to deny him relief today because his absence resulted from the original trial judge’s own misconduct in failing to abide by the sentencing agreement and threatening Polanski with additional incarceration coupled with illegal deportation conditions.  Even in light of our fundamental concern about the misconduct that has been alleged here with significant evidentiary support, flight was not Polanski’ s only option.  It was not even his best option.  From the record Polanski has provided to this court, at the time he fled Polanski knew what he needed to know to make a case for a violation of due process,  and at all times in this matter, he has had means at his disposal other than flight by which he could have obtained relief.”

The Court of Appeal lists the remedies available to him:

“Even now Polanski has remedies besides seeking a dismissal of the entire action from this court while remaining a fugitive.  While section 977, subdivision (b)(1) imposes a general requirement of personal appearance for sentencing in felony matters, section 1193 permits defendants to be sentenced in absentia when specific conditions are met.  Whether the offense is treated as a misdemeanor or a felony, Polanski could request to be formally sentenced in absentia.  Section 1193, subdivision (a) provides that when a defendant is convicted of a felony, “the defendant shall be personally present when judgment is pronounced against him or her, unless the defendant, in open court and on the record, or in a notarized writing, requests that judgment be pronounced against him or her in his or her absence, and that he or she be represented by an attorney when judgment is pronounced, and the court approves his or her absence during the pronouncement of judgment, or unless, after the exercise of reasonable diligence to procure the presence of the defendant, the court shall find that it will be in the interest of justice that judgment be pronounced in his or her absence . . .  Sentences for misdemeanors, of course, may be imposed in absentia without the satisfaction of any conditions.  (§ 1193, subd. (b).)  At sentencing, Polanski’s counsel could argue that the proper sentence is the time already served. (more…)

UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT CONSIDERS WHETHER A MIRANDA WARNING EXPIRES

Maryland v. Michael Blaine Shatzer, Sr.

USSC Case No. 08-680.

Oral Argument Date:  Oct 5 2009

In the groundbreaking case of Miranda v. Arizona, the United States Supreme Court held that police officers must inform suspects of their right to remain silent, to consult with an attorney, to have an attorney present during questioning, and to have an attorney appointed if they cannot afford one. The Miranda opinion also noted that “[i]f the individual states that he wants an attorney, the interrogation must cease until an attorney is present.”

In the subsequent case of Edwards v. Arizona, the Supreme Court addressed a cognate question: What happens when a police officer reads a suspect a Miranda warning, but still asks questions after the suspect invokes the right to counsel? In Edwards, the Court held that statements made in response to such questioning are inadmissible at trial.

This fall, the Supreme Court will revisit the Miranda-Edwards line of case in Maryland v. Shatzer. Mr. Shatzer, the respondent in this case, was serving a prison sentence on an unrelated crime when a detective first interviewed him. When the detective read Mr. Shatzer his Miranda rights, Mr. Shatzer responded that he wanted an attorney present while the detective asked him questions. The detective wrote in his report, “When I attempted to again initiate the interview, he told me that he would not talk about this case without having an attorney present.” The detective then terminated the interview and closed the case. Two years and seven months later, though, a different detective conducted a follow-up investigation. That detective read Mr. Shatzer his Miranda rights and then — without allowing Mr. Shatzer any access to an attorney — interrogated him. Mr. Shatzer then confessed that he had committed a crime.

At trial, Mr. Shatzer argued that his confession was inadmissible, because the second detective obtained it in violation of Edwards. But in Edwards, only a day had elapsed between the suspect’s invocation of the right to counsel and the second interrogation. In contrast, two years and seven months had elapsed between Mr. Shatzer’s invocation of the right to counsel and the second interrogation. Moreover, while the suspect in Edwards was in continuous police custody between the first and second interrogation, Mr. Shatzer was not. Mr. Shatzer, though, was in prison for that entire period. (more…)

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