In Perez Appeal, Is One Trial Fair For Two Crimes?
Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez says the two cases against him never should have been combined into one trial. That argument is the crux of his criminal appeal.
Perez was found guilty of two different crimes. One involved trading his influence at city hall for deeply discounted work on his home. The other dealt with allegations that he tried to extort a city developer.
One man, two crimes, one trial.
"The question will be whether the defendant was substantially prejudiced by having been tried for two legally distinct charges in one trial."
That's Timothy Everett, a clinical professor of law at the UConn School of Law.
"And, 'What is substantially prejudiced?' will be the $64,000 question."
Everett says Connecticut courts often combine separate charges for the same defendant into one trial for something called judicial economy. That means saving the state money and other resources. The question is, at what expense?
"The problem with consolidation is that the jury is put in the position where it may well be presented with evidence that is relevant in one case and not the other and there may be a real problem with the jury following directions not to let that evidence spill over to its consideration of the second case."
Everett says state prosecutors will now file a reply brief. Assuming the case stays at the appellate level, it could be ready for oral argument this fall -- where judges will consider whether Perez's rights as a defendant were compromised from the beginning.
The former mayor was sentenced to three years in prison. He is free pending his appeal.