STATE v. SADIKI BLAKE, SC 18185

Judicial District of Hartford

 

      Criminal; Probation Violation; Right to Allocution; Whether Defendant's Right to Allocution was Violated Because the Dispositional Phase of his Violation of Probation Proceeding was Held Before the Underlying Criminal Charges were Resolved.  The defendant was charged with violating the terms of his probation due to his arrest for certain criminal offenses.  After the trial court found that the defendant had violated his probation, the dispositional phase of the proceedings commenced, during which the defendant's attorney requested a continuance on the ground that because the underlying criminal charges had not yet been disposed, the defendant could not sufficiently exercise his right to allocution without subjecting himself to self-incrimination.  In response, the court raised the possibility of ordering that any statements made during the defendant's allocution could not be used against him, but the defendant's attorney stated that such an order would be insufficient in the absence of a promise on the part of the state that it would not introduce such statements during a subsequent criminal trial.  The prosecutor then announced his willingness to stipulate on the record that any admissions made by the defendant during allocution would not be used against him at the criminal trial.  Thereafter, the defendant declined the opportunity to speak on his own behalf prior to sentencing, and the court subsequently revoked his probation and sentenced him to four years of incarceration.  On appeal, the defendant argued, among other things, that the trial court violated his right to allocution because it commenced the dispositional phase before the underlying charges were resolved.  He contended that neither the court nor the prosecutor had the authority to grant him immunity for statements made during his allocution and that his ability to exercise his right to allocution was severely limited by the fact that when he expressed his desire to address the court with regard to matters unrelated to the allocution issue, the court noted that his statements could be used against him.  The Appellate Court (108 Conn. App. 336) rejected the defendant's claims and affirmed the trial court's judgment.  With regard to his argument concerning the authority of the trial court and the prosecutor to grant him immunity, it decided that he failed to raise this claim before the trial court, and, therefore, it was unreviewable.  It also determined that although the court at one point did advise the defendant that anything he said could be used against him, this statement was not made in connection with the defendant's right to allocution.  It further emphasized that the defendant chose not to exercise his right to allocution notwithstanding that his concerns were timely addressed by the trial court and were ultimately resolved in a manner consistent with his wishes by virtue of the prosecutor's stipulation.  It therefore concluded that, under these circumstances, it was fundamentally unfair for the defendant to argue on appeal that the resolution of the allocution issue was in any way prejudicial to him, and, accordingly, it declined to review the defendant's claim in any further detail.  In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court's decision was proper.