By Ken Wallentine
United States v. Bauzó-Santiago, 2017 WL 3392672 (1st Cir. 2017)
Jaime Bauzó-Santiago wrote a letter to the judge presiding over his trial for illegal possession of a firearm. The letter to the judge stated, “I have a situation with my lawyer … he has no interest in my case [and] I do not have good communications with the lawyer … Because of these reasons I would like to ask of the Honorable Judge to change counsel … if possible. I want to take advantage to notify you that I, Jaime Bauzó-Santiago … have always accepted my responsibility as to guilt, the only thing that I ask of you is that the time for the weapons law crime be a reasonable one.” Bauzó-Santiago signed the note.
Not surprisingly, the letter to the judge was read and its contents disclosed to the prosecutor and defense counsel. Even less surprisingly, Bauzó-Santiago was convicted.
Bauzó-Santiago appealed and told the court of appeals that the letter to the judge was part of a plea bargain discussion. As such, the note should not have been considered by the judge. I haven’t seen the appellate brief, but perhaps it said, “I know that I am guilty, you know that I am guilty, I never said that I wasn’t guilty. But it is unfair for you to find me guilty just because I said that I am guilty (oh, yeah, plus the testimony of the officer who found the gun).”
Are you shocked to learn that the court of appeals held that Bauzó-Santiago’s letter to the judge was admissible? He lost the appeal and went to prison without passing “Go” and collecting $200. We catch the dumb ones.
CHIEF KEN WALLENTINE is a Special Agent who directs the Utah Attorney General Training Center, overseeing use of force training and investigation and cold case homicide investigations. He is also a consultant and Senior Legal Advisor for Lexipol. Ken formerly served as Chief of Law Enforcement for the Utah Attorney General, serving over three decades in public safety before a brief retirement. He also serves as the Chairman of the Peace Officer Merit Commission of Greater Salt Lake County.