Court to judge: You can't punish a defendant for going to trial

Mar 23, 2018

A judge cannot impose a certain sentence simply because a defendant exercised his right to a trial. The Michigan Court of Appeals made this ruling today, for the second time. To the same judge.

In 2016, the court told Judge Qiana Lillard of Wayne County that her practice of sentencing defendants who go to trial at the top of their sentence range violated their rights. But that wasn’t a precedent setting opinion. Now the court has made itself clear and set the precedent.

The court said this practice violates a defendant’s right to be sentenced based on particular facts about his case – not whether he went to trial.

Judge Lillard originally argued that her policy didn’t punish defendants for going to trial. Instead, it rewarded defendants for pleading guilty.

The Court of Appeals said, quote, “The court may not have intended to punish defendant for exerting his Fifth Amendment rights, but the impact is the same regardless.”