Original Case Details
A Lansing, MI man was convicted back in November 2018 of sexually assaulting a nine-year-old girl. He was convicted of first degree criminal sexual conduct, second degree criminal sexual conduct, and assault with intent to commit sexual penetration. He was sentenced to a minimum of 72 years in prison by Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who also presided over his jury trial. Prior to the trial, it was agreed that a support person could sit with the child while she testified about what the man allegedly did to her. All non-essential people were not allowed to be in the courtroom while she testified, and her testimony would be broadcast to a closed-circuit TV in another room to satisfy the defendant’s right to a public trial. Judge Aquilina also decided that due to the nature of the case and the girl having previously testified that she was suicidal, only the girl’s voice would be broadcast into the closed-circuit TV next door and not her face, so the judge blocked the cameras. Both the prosecutor and defense attorney objected to this decision, to which the judge overruled them and stated to appeal her if they were not satisfied. Essentially, the judge created an appeal issue for the defense which led to a direct appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Court Of Appeals Decision
A three-judge panel on the Michigan Court of Appeals unanimously agreed that Judge Aquilina had violated the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a public trial by cutting the video from the girl’s testimony. They stated that the Ingham County judge failed to make any factual finding on the record to support her decision to violate a statute that requires closed-circuit audio and video in these circumstances. They further said that the judge failed to logically explain how the closed-circuit camera would have caused trauma and increased the risk of suicide as the Judge believed. She claimed the court to be a safe space and if the defense attorney didn’t like her decision, he could go to the Appellate court which was a couple blocks away, also in the state capitol. A number of attorneys have taken this advice and appealed the Judge who became more publicly known when she presided over the nationally known Larry Nassar case.
Your Right To A Public Trial
Settled right near the middle of the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution is the Sixth Amendment. The Sixth Amendment encompasses a number of rights to criminal defendants which include:
• the right to a speedy and public trial,
• the right to an impartial jury,
• the right to be informed of the charges against them,
• the right to confront witnesses against them,
• the right to compel witnesses to testify, and
• the right to counsel.
As you can see, the Sixth Amendment is packed with rights that are meant to level the playing field as much as possible during a criminal prosecution. Without these rights, an unfair system becomes even more so when the government is not required to make sure that these specific parameters are followed. In this case, even as ugly as the accusations are, the defendant gets these rights in order to ensure a fair proceeding. The Court of Appeals was not prepared to ignore the defendant’s right to a public trial in this case without a specific factual finding as to why the judge made her decisions as she did.
Any Further Questions?
If you have a loved one who is incarcerated due to a constitutional violation, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. There may be legal relief if there are the correct legal issues are present. At Grabel & Associates, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in successfully defending criminal cases all over the state of Michigan. We are not a general practice firm. We are a team of criminal defense attorneys; it’s all we do. We offer a FREE consultation to anyone with questions relating to a possible or existing criminal charge against them or a loved one. Feel free to contact us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896. You can also contact us online or come visit us at one of our three statewide locations. We can also come to you.