Supreme Court Rejects Appeal of Man Convicted without Knowing he was on Trial
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of William Fairey, who was convicted by a South Carolina court without him being aware he was on trial.
In 1998 Fairey was charged with obtaining goods and moneys under false pretenses. He did not appear at his trial in 2004 because he never received the notice from the court to appear. Fairey had moved several times. However he twice returned to Florida to follow the proceedings in his case and he kept the court informed of his changes of address. Despite the fact that he gave the court his then most current address (in Florida), the trial notice went to his expired addresses and he was tried in absentia.
After being arrested—at the address he had given—and sentenced to jail for eight years, Fairey appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate court rejected his appeal, leading to his filing a writ to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear his case.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor disagreed with the majority decision. “A trial conducted without actual notice to a defendant and in his absence makes a mockery of fair process and the constitutional right to be present at trial,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissenting opinion. “That is particularly true where, as here, the defendant participated actively in his defense and kept the state informed of his whereabouts.”
To Learn More:
No Second Chance to Man Tried Without Notice (by Travis Sanford, Courthouse News Service)
Doak Fairey v. Kenneth S. Tucker: Sonia Sotomayor Dissent (U.S. Supreme Court) (pdf)
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