Michael Dunn’s sentencing must be continued to avoid constitutional error

March 11, 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Good morning:

Judge Russell Healey said yesterday that he will announce his decision on Friday, regarding the defense motion to continue Michael Dunn’s sentencing until after the retrial of the murder charge.

For the following reasons, I believe he must grant the motion to avoid constitutional error.

Briefly in review, the jury convicted Dunn of three counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count of shooting into a vehicle. It hung 9-3 in favor of convicting him for shooting and killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis.

Dunn was represented at yesterday’s hearing by his trial counsel, Cory Strolla, who is withdrawing because Dunn is out of money. He will be replaced by a public defender.

He argued that the sentencing must be continued because anything Dunn says at his sentencing can be used against him at the retrial.

The prosecution has objected to the continuance on the ground that Dunn has waived his right to remain silent by testifying at trial.

Although the answer is relatively simple, Judge Healey appears to be struggling a bit with this motion.

Let’s break it down :

The Fifth Amendment states in pertinent part,

No person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.

First, as long as Dunn remains in legal jeopardy of conviction on the murder charge, he can assert his right to remain silent, even if he has previously testified.

Second, Dunn also has a right to allocution, which means he has a right to be heard before the court imposes the sentence.

Third, if he exercises his right to allocution, he sacrifices his right to remain silent. He cannot be compelled to make that choice and that is the precise problem he faces.

Therefore, Judge Healey should grant the defense motion.

I am surprised that the prosecution has failed to see this issue.

My question for Angela Corey is why build constitutional error into the record at this point? Dunn is not going anywhere.

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This is our 928th post and donations are lagging. We work hard to keep you informed by filling in the blanks between the lines. After 30 years in the trenches, I am familiar with all of the rules and strategies prosecutors and defense counsel utilize. Experience counts and most of my predictions have been accurate.

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Fred


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