Submitted on Briefs: October 10, 2018
District Court of the Twenty-First Judicial District, In and
For the County of Ravalli, Cause No. DC 15-146 Honorable
James A. Haynes, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, Moses Okeyo,
Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana
Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Mardell
Ployhar, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana
William E. Fulbright, Ravalli County Attorney, Hamilton,
Michael Allen Chaplin (Chaplin) appeals a criminal conviction
from the Twenty-First Judicial District Court, Ravalli
County. We affirm.
We restate the issue on appeal:
Whether the District Court violated Chaplin's right
to present a full defense, including his right to assistance
of counsel, when it did not affirmatively offer Chaplin the
opportunity to make a closing argument in a bench trial?
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Chaplin was charged with Sexual Intercourse without Consent
and Attempted Sexual Abuse of Children. The parties presented
their cases in a four-day bench trial held September 6, 7, 9,
and 19, 2016. At the close of the State's case on
September 9, 2016, Chaplin's counsel moved to dismiss for
insufficient evidence. During defense counsel's argument
on the motion, the District Court interrupted Chaplin's
counsel: "I don't need a closing argument now. I
just need you to stick with the facts." After
counsel's argument, the court denied Chaplin's motion
to dismiss. Chaplin then presented his case.
At the close of evidence on September 19, 2016, the
transcript reflects the following interaction:
THE COURT: Everybody rests their ...