Recently, Roman Polanski, the award-winning filmmaker, suffered a legal setback when a panel of the California Court of Appeals rejected his request to re-open his 1977 child rape case. The appellate court ruled that the lower court judge did not abuse his discretion when he refused to consider Mr. Polanski's request for dismissal request based upon his fugitive status. But the court also urged the LA DA's office to investigate alleged judicial and prosecutorial misconduct. The WSJ Law Blog, TalkLeft, and the NY Times have more. You may read the full 70-page opinion here. From the opinion:
In another chapter of what surely must be one of the longest-running sagas in California criminal justice history, Roman Polanski, a fugitive since 1978, asked the trial court to exercise its discretionary authority to dismiss the criminal prosecution against him that has been pending since 1977. The trial court declined to consider Polanski‟s request until Polanski submitted to the court‟s jurisdiction by returning to the United States and appearing in court. Polanski asks this court to compel the trial court to dismiss the action or, at least, to conduct an evidentiary hearing on Polanski's request. We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in applying the fugitive disentitlement doctrine and refusing to consider dismissing the action. In so doing, we do not disregard the extremely serious allegations of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct that have been brought forward, but urge the parties to take steps to investigate and to respond to the claims.
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Although there is no basis for extraordinary relief here—Polanski retains remedies in the ordinary course of the law, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in relying on the disentitlement doctrine to deny Polanski the opportunity to seek relief—we remain deeply concerned that these allegations of misconduct have not been addressed by a court equipped to take evidence and make factual determinations as to the events in 1977 and 1978. Fundamental fairness and justice in our criminal justice system are far more important than the conviction and sentence of any one individual. “[F]or my part I think it a less evil that some criminals should escape than that the government should play an ignoble part.” Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 470 (1928) (Holmes, J., dissenting).
Polanski's allegations urgently require full exploration and then, if indicated, curative action for the abuses alleged here. Time continues to pass, and the delay in addressing this matter has already removed one participant from the ranks of available witnesses for an evidentiary hearing on the judicial and prosecutorial misdeeds that have been alleged here. The passage of more time before this case‟s final resolution will further hamper the search for truth and the delivery of any appropriate relief, and it will also prolong the agony that the lack of finality in this matter continues to cause Samantha Geimer. We exhort all participants in this extended drama to place the integrity of the criminal justice system above the desire to punish any one individual, whether for his offense or for his flight. As Justice Murphy wrote in dissent in Eisler v. United States, 338 U.S. 189, 194-95 (1949), “Our country takes pride in requiring of its institutions the examination and correction of alleged injustice whenever it occurs. We should not permit an affront of this sort to distract us from the performance of our constitutional duties.” We encourage all participating parties to do their utmost to ensure that this matter now draws to a close in a manner that fully addresses the issues of due process and fundamental fairness raised by the events of long ago.