ILNews

Split court rules no-shows forfeit right to trial attendance, counsel appearance

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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If a defendant doesn't appear at a trial he or she knew about, a trial court can consider that a knowing and voluntary waiver of that person's right to be present and to have counsel appear there, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.

Justices ruled 3-2 in Carlos M. Jackson v. State of Indiana, No. 15S01-0609-CR-333, which involved a man found guilty of possession of cocaine with intent to deliver and possession of an unlicensed handgun. Jackson was ordered to attend pretrial conferences in late 2002, but didn't do so and also didn't attend the jury trial in January 2003. The state proceeded without him and convicted him in absentia after the two-day trial.

Jackson appealed on grounds that he didn't know about the trial, and the Dearborn Circuit Court denied his motion to correct error. But the Court of Appeals last year reversed and remanded for a new trial.

In Tuesday's ruling, the Supreme Court held that a trial court may find a knowing and voluntary waiver of a defendant's right to be present at trial if that person knew his or her trial date, and if no adequate reason was provided for an absence. Justices also held that a court isn't required to re-advise a defendant of the right to counsel or the perils of self-representation when revoking a defendant's attorney's pro hac vice status if that person was advised at the initial hearing, or if they'd already retained an attorney or hadn't advised the court of an intent to proceed pro se.

"Under these circumstances, a defendant's intentional and inexcusable absence from trial can serve as a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waiver of the right to counsel," the court wrote. "We cannot expect a trial court to hunt down a defendant to admonish him about the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation if the defendant has made no indication to the trial court that he intends to proceed pro se and then subsequently does not show up for trial."

However, dissenting Justices Robert Rucker and Frank Sullivan joined together to write that Jackson didn't knowingly or intelligently waive his right to counsel.

Justice Rucker wrote, "I agree that a trial court cannot 'hunt down a defendant to admonish him'... Such an inquiry is quite obviously impossible when a defendant fails to present himself before the court. But one's fugitive status is a separate wrong with its own consequences, and returned fugitives should be punished, if appropriate, for violations of court orders or statutes which compel their presence in court. It is not grounds for forfeiting the right to representation by counsel."
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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