Second District Appellate Court Hears Fugitive’s Appeal After Trial And Sentencing In Absentia

After a bench trial in absentia, Patricia Wakenight was convicted of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. The arrest was made in April 2000, but Patricia changed lawyers a number of times, and backed out of a plea agreement, so the trial was not completed until July 2005.

During the trial in July 2000, Patricia snuck out of the courthouse. The trial proceeded in her absence, and ended with the conviction. Four months later, Patricia was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. After her post-trial motion was denied, and remaining a fugitive, Patricia appealed. She complained to the Second District Appellate Court (1) that she had not been properly admonished about the possibility that the trial could proceed in her absence, and (2) that she had not been given proper notice of her sentencing hearing.

The initial question was whether the appellate court should exercise its discretion to hear Patricia’s appeal. The appellate court “has the discretionary power to refuse to hear a fugitive’s appeal unless and until the fugitive returns to the jurisdiction.” But in this case, the appellate court refused to dismiss the appeal “because the only substantive issues defendant raises are whether she was properly admonished about the possibility of a trial in absentia and whether she was entitled to a separate notice of the sentencing hearing … Thus, the substantive issues are intertwined with the issue of whether we should hear the appeal in the first place.”

In the end, the conviction and the sentence were affirmed. You can read the entire opinion, People v. Wakenight, No. 2-05-1090 (7/11/07), by clicking here.

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