Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Virtual Probation Violation--Um, No.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a ruling that a "virtual parole revocation hearing"--the Judge was in Florida and the parole violator was in Rockford, Illinois--is a no go according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. 

 Here's a excerpt from Bruce Vielmetti's article on the 7th Circuit decision:

"Early last year, Christopher Thompson was arrested on drunk driving charges, while he was on supervised release for a bank robbery conviction. A revocation hearing was set March 25, when he, his lawyer and the prosecutor assembled at the Rockford courthouse. The judge, however, had taken to the balmier surroundings of Key West, Fla., where he presided over the hearing via videoconference -- over the objection of Thompson's attorney.

'I can both see and hear everybody in the courthouse in Rockford and can comprehend everything that has transpired,' the judge said from Key West. Then he sent Thompson back to prison for a year.

But on Friday, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling, saying the it violated federal rules of criminal procedure.  Writing for the court, Milwaukee's own Judge Diane Sykes agreed with Thompson's argument on appeal. She cited several definitions that 'suggest that the 'appearance' required by this rule occurs only if the defendant comes into the physical—not virtual—presence of the judge.'"
I've talked about this sort of thing in the context of "small law" cases, remember 78 year old Getrude Shaink Trudeau who spent two weeks in jail, last Thanskgiving following a "video arraignment?"  The revocation of parole for a bank robber is U.S. District Court is far from small law, the action of this U.S. District Judge really offends notions of "due process."  As I've said before, these Judges are the cream of the crop, so it's surprising to hear a story like this one.

1 comment:

  1. Pretty brazen behavior by this judge, but I read that Justice Stevens does this sort of thing?