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State v. Chaplin

Supreme Court of Montana

November 7, 2018

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL ALLEN CHAPLIN, Defendant and Appellant.

          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

          For Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, Moses Okeyo, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Mardell Ployhar, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana

          William E. Fulbright, Ravalli County Attorney, Hamilton, Montana

          INGRID GUSTAFSON JUSTICE.

         ¶1 Michael Allen Chaplin (Chaplin) appeals a criminal conviction from the Twenty-First Judicial District Court, Ravalli County. We affirm.

         ¶2 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?

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3 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.

         ¶4 At the close of evidence on September 19, 2016, the transcript reflects the following interaction:

THE COURT: Everybody rests their ...

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