By Jose Medina
WOODLAND – In the midst of the pandemic, it’s likely that people will not be able to be guaranteed a speedy due process because of new and stringent precautions courts are taking to keep as people—from lawyers to court staff to defendants and juries—safe.
However, despite social distancing precautions, some defendants are running into a few inconveniences, unrelated to the pandemic, that prevent them from being informed of their cases.
In one particular case here in Yolo County Superior Court Thursday—Scott Matthew Wiley’s felony arraignment hearing in front of Judge Peter Williams—these inconveniences seem almost avoidable and serve as nuisances for the defendant’s due process.
Wiley’s felony arraignment was for charges of vandalism and, as the hearing began, Wiley immediately pleaded guilty. Judge Williams stopped the defendant from speaking any further so that his words would not be held against him.
The judge suggested that the defendant wait to speak until he meets with his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Daniel Hutchinson.
As Judge Williams continued to go over Wiley’s case, the issue of a bench warrant assigned to him for failure to appear was noted—the defendant began to interrupt the hearing to state, “ I’m giving you my statements right now and by all means, I retired and I have no charges, I don’t owe you any time, and I didn’t miss any court dates.”
Judge Williams responded with “we should probably mute him so he doesn’t say something he immediately regrets,” and proceeded to set a preliminary date and asked if there were any other loose ends to Wiley’s case that anybody present at the hearing would like to address.
Defense attorney Hutchinson took the opportunity to address Wiley’s confusion and interruptions by saying that he has tried to reach out to him, but due to inconveniences he was unable to speak privately to Wiley.
Hutchinson insisted, “I attempted to contact the defendant at the jail, by phone, but apparently the tablet they gave him wasn’t working”—although an inconvenience such as this one could easily be avoided by ensuring that jails have fully operational resources for defendants to use when communicating with their attorneys.
Hutchinson continued to address the hindrances to their communications by mentioning, “I tried to visit him at the jail, but they had construction and were not allowing visits.” The jail could have made an exception for Hutchinson’s visit since it is crucial for a defendant to meet the attorney, with an upcoming court hearing.
Hutchinson then proceeded to reassure the defendant by stating, “I just want to advise Mr. Wiley that someone at my office will come visit you at the jail.”
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