Letter to the Judge Backfires and is Admissible in Court

by | August 28, 2017

United States v. Bauzó-Santiago, (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 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.

KEN WALLENTINE is the Chief of the West Jordan (Utah) Police Department and former Chief of Law Enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He has served over three decades in public safety, is a legal expert and editor of Xiphos, a monthly national criminal procedure newsletter. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death and serves as a use of force consultant in state and federal criminal and civil litigation across the nation.

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