Court: Man's right to fair trial not violated by shackling

AP News
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Posted: Jun 06, 2016 3:35 PM

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Connecticut Supreme Court on Monday upheld the burglary and assault convictions of a man who claimed his constitutional rights were violated because he was ordered to remain shackled during his trial.

Justices rejected former Waterbury resident Michael Brawley's appeal in a 7-0 decision, saying Brawley never proved the jury saw his shackles during his 2009 trial. He was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for a violent home invasion in Naugatuck in 2008.

Brawley's lawyer, Christopher Parlato, argued that it was up to prosecutors to prove the jury never saw the shackles. He also said the trial judge ordered that Brawley be shackled during the trial without providing any justification — in violation of rulings by both the U.S. and state supreme courts. Parlato said Brawley's right to a fair trial was violated.

Both the federal and state high court rulings said defendants generally have the right to be free of restraints during trials because it may prejudice juries, with certain exceptions including when public safety would be endangered.

In response to questions from the state Supreme Court, Judge Carl Schuman, who presided over Brawley's trial, told the justices that the trial took place several years ago and he could not be certain what type of shackles Brawley wore or whether the jury could see them. Schuman, however, told justices that it was his "strong belief" that Brawley wore leg shackles only and they were not visible to the jury.

The Supreme Court said there was no evidence submitted by the defense that the jury saw the shackles, and Brawley always was seated when the jury entered and left the courtroom.

Parlato did not immediately return a message seeking comment Monday.

Justices did say, however, that Brawley could file another appeal seeking to prove the jury saw the shackles.