Friday, May 7, 2021

Un Socratic Method

Over an impassioned dissent, the New York Court of Appeals has held that a criminal defendant had waived his right of allocution.

Justice Wilson

In the year 399 BCE, Socrates, whom Plato lauded as the wisest and most just of all persons, was convicted of impiety and moral corruption of the Athenian youth. According to custom, he spoke at length before sentence was pronounced. The right of a condemned  defendant to speak at sentencing carried into the English common law, and into New York’s common law and criminal procedure law. It stopped with George Brown.

Because this error implicates the fundamental fairness of our criminal justice system, I dissent.

The dissent recites that after plea and the imposition of sentence

Then, Mr. Brown asked:

“Am I going to get a chance to talk? This whole thing is bull. I don’t understand this. It don’t matter to me. Let’s get this shit over with. Y’all, I love you all. I’ll see y’all when I see y’all. Fuck that.”

Mr. Brown never was permitted to make a statement at sentencing.

The dissent sets out the historic antecedents of the right to speak before a sentence is pronounced . (Mike Frisch)

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