The decision to force a criminal defendant to go to trial even though the attorney he hired had a scheduling conflict is in direct violation of that defendant’s constitutional rights, according to a New Jersey appellate court.
Recently, the three-judge panel said that because of the trial judge’s decision to enforce the date and deny the defendant’s request for an adjournment, the conviction should be overturned and the defendant should receive a new trial.
The Case of Gregory Martinez
In January of 2011, police found more than five grams of cocaine in a car carrying the defendant, Gregory Martinez, and another man who was not named.
Martinez was charged with twelve counts of criminal activity, including one count of first-degree possession of narcotics with intent to distribute, although he insisted he did not know about the drugs in the vehicle. The other defendant pleaded guilty to his charges.
Martinez retained the services of a criminal defense attorney for his trial. On February 4, 2013, an associate at the attorney’s firm appeared before the court to request an adjournment of the trial that had been scheduled for February 13th.
The assistant told the court that Martinez’s attorney would be appearing at another trial that day for another client and asked that Martinez’s date be moved so the attorney could represent him. The firm noted that Martinez was adamant that his original attorney be the one to represent him at trial.
Presiding Judge Bradley Ferencz rejected the adjournment request and Martinez’s trial was held as scheduled. At the trial, Martinez was represented by an associate at his preferred attorney’s firm and he was convicted on eleven of the twelve counts.
Weighing Requests for Adjournment
An adjournment request can be denied by a trial judge if he or she has a “reasoned, thoughtful analysis” of the variety of factors involved, including the reason for the request, the availability witnesses, the abilities of counsel and case details.
In Martinez’s case, Appellate Division Judge Marie Lihotz wrote that “the denial of defendant’s request to adjourn the trial…reflects an arbitrary exaltation of expedience in case processing at the expense of the defendant’s right to counsel” without that analysis.
Although the trial judge had argued that Martinez received a fair trial and a skilled defense, the appellate division determined that Martinez had a right to the counsel of his choice, “regardless of the quality of the representation he received.” Because the judge had failed to perform the proper analysis, Martinez should receive a new trial.
Choose Your Lawyer
You have a clear right to choose your representation at trial if you have been charged with criminal activity. At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, a New Jersey criminal law firm, we represent anyone who is facing criminal charges or has had their rights violated in the course of a criminal investigation. To discuss your case, call an HCK attorney for a consultation today.