HARTFORD — Should judicial efficiency trump one’s constitutional right to testify on his behalf?
That’s the question posed to Hartford Superior Court Judge Julia Dewey on day seven of Mayor Eddie Perez’s trial for alleged bribery and larceny.
With the state’s bribery case against Perez winding down after 16 witnesses testified, Attorney Hubert Santos asked the court to split the two cases and have Perez testify on his own behalf at this crucial juncture. Santos said the combination of two cases poses substantial challenges to the defense and violates his client’s constitutional rights.
“Since that is a real concern, this will be the time to cure it,” Santos said. “It just seems to me that the line should be drawn right here.”
After hearing the prosecutor’s objection, Dewey denied Santos’s request with a swift tap of her gavel on the wooden bench, crushing Perez’s hope of testifying in his defense.
State prosecutors objected to Santos’ motion to separate the cases. They argued that Santos’ plea was untimely and should’ve been asked when the state first sought to combine both cases. In addition, said Prosecutor Michael Gailor, “This appears to me the defense trying to control the course of the case.”
Santos disagreed, saying the request time is not unusual.
“We have a pretty good sense of what the state’s bribery case looks like in terms of evidence and witnesses’ credibility,” Santos said.
Perez’s attorney said the decisions about whether to testify in a criminal case is usually reserved until the end of the prosecutors’ case. If Perez were to testify now, without the case being separated, he would be faced with a litany of issues that would arise in one case and not the other. In addition, the jury will have to wait two weeks before hearing the defense for the bribery case—and only after prosecutors present their larceny case.
The state is accusing Perez of receiving a bribe from Carlos Costa. Prosecutors say Perez and in return intervened in the relationship between Costa and the city’s Department of Public Works. To date, prosecutors have called 16 witnesses, including city contractor Costa, his vendors, workers and city employees, and consultants. Today they called Inspector Michael Sullivan, who prepared the arrest warrant.
Costa’s testimony revealed that he offered to install a kitchen countertop for the mayor and his wife and he said that it would be “no problem” to do the work cheaper. The initial work of just kitchen countertop evolved into bathroom renovations. He said he had no plans to bill the mayor.
Because of a death in the family of one juror, the court adjourned at 3: 30 today and will resume on Tuesday.
Check back tomorrow for more on Inspector Sullivan’s testimony.