Brief argues defendant has right to waive appearance at hearing

NEWARK – The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) argued today in New Jersey Supreme Court that a defendant has a right to waive his appearance at a sentencing hearing.

“A sentencing hearing is a critical stage of the trial process where a judge is given information to determine an appropriate sentence,” said ACLU-NJ Policy Counsel Alexander Shalom, who argued the ACLU-NJ’s position. “The hearing, however, is not intended to be punitive in and of itself.”

The victim’s mother in the case, Michelle Ruggieri has asked the court to compel the defendant, Guiseppe Tedesco to appear in court. The ACLU-NJ filed a friend-of-the court brief in State v. Guiseppe Tedesco, arguing that the Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights provides victims with the opportunity to address the court at sentencing, but it does not provide the right to address the defendant.

“A defendant’s absence from a sentencing in no way diminishes the family’s ability to meaningfully participate in the process,” states the ACLU-NJ brief. “Simply put, a court cannot compel the defendant’s presence at the sentencing hearing at the victim’s behest in order to force the defendant to atone for his wrongful acts and be subjected to the opprobrium of the court for his devastating actions prior to the imposition of sentence.”

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