The state Supreme Court in Louisiana ruled in favor of defendant Gerald Chinn, who is awaiting trial in Baton Rouge on charges of attempted first-degree murder and felony criminal damage to property. Chinn chose to waive his right to a jury trial, but the prosecutor in Chinn’s case intentionally chose a trial date that was less than 45 days from the date it was set. However, last Friday the state Supreme Court ruled that a prosecutor cannot take advantage of a recently approved state constitutional amendment to prevent a defendant from giving up his right to a jury trial. The ruling comes 15 months after Louisiana voters approved a constitutional amendment that requires criminal defendants who wish to give up their right to a jury trial to do so at least 45 days prior to trial.
The judge set the trial on the state’s requested date but also granted Chinn’s request for a judge trial, also known as a bench trial. Then, the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office appealed, and the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the district judge’s decision stating that Chinn could not waive his right to a jury trial less than 45 days before the scheduled trial date. Finally, the state Supreme Court reversed the 1st Circuit and reinstated the portion of the district judge’s decision, allowing Chinn to waive his right to a jury trial.
Justice John Weimer wrote for the high court that the “clear intention’’ of the drafters of the constitutional amendment was to “prevent last minute waivers by criminal defendants of the right to a jury trial. However, the constitutional provision was not enacted to deprive a defendant of the right to waive a jury trial entirely, nor was it enacted to allow the fixing of trial dates in such a manner as to deprive a defendant of the opportunity to knowingly and intelligently waive the right to a trial by jury.”
If you have been charged with a crime, you need an attorney that knows the laws in Louisiana and how to apply them to your case. Contact Baton Rouge Criminal Lawyer Carl Barkemeyer to discuss your case.
Source: The Advocate, “Justices back EBR defendant in appeal,” February 14, 2012.