State v. Baker
The sentencing court does not have an affirmative duty to inquire of the defendant whether he wishes to make a personal statement at the sentencing hearing. James Baker pleaded guilty under the Alford doctrine to possession of a weapon in a correctional institution. After fully canvassing Baker, the court asked defense counsel if he would like to be heard. He responded in the negative. Noting that the plea agreement included an agreed upon disposition, the court adopted the disposition and sentenced Baker to a term of incarceration of 18 months to run consecutive to his current sentence. More than a year later, Baker filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence arguing that he was denied an opportunity to allocute to mitigate the sentence. The court denied the motion. Baker appealed claiming that the court improperly denied his motion because he was not provided with an opportunity to allocute prior to the sentence being imposed. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. Practice Book §43-10(3) applies to both original sentencing hearings and the dispositional phase of probation revocation hearings. The Supreme Court in its 2002 decision in State v. Valedon interpreted Practice Book §43-10(3) in the context of the dispositional phase of a probation revocation hearing, determining that "[a]lthough it is the better practice for the trial court to inquire of each defendant whether he or she wishes to make a personal statement before being sentenced for violation of probation….the plain language of [Practice Book] §43-10(3) does not require that such an inquiry be made…" The Appellate Court concluded that the Supreme Court's interpretation of §43-10(3) applied to both kinds of hearings. Based on Valedon's reasoning, therefore, the sentencing court did not have an affirmative duty to inquire of Baker whether he wanted to make a personal statement at the sentencing hearing. The conclusion was bolstered by the fact that Baker was sentenced pursuant to a plea bargain agreement that included an agreed upon disposition. Further, the defendant was given a reasonable opportunity to allocute as the court asked if defense counsel wanted to be heard. Absent evidence to the contrary, the Appellate Court concluded that when presented with a reasonable opportunity to allocute, the defendant simply declined to do so.