The U.S. Supreme Court has let stand a South Carolina conviction of a man who was tried in absentia. The man will serve 8 years.
The defendant, William Fairly, was convicted by a jury of his peers for obtaining money under false pretenses. The jury made the decision in 30 minutes. It was an open-and-shut case.
It was open and shut for a good reason: they jury did not hear his side of the story. He had not been informed of the trial.
The state is supposed to tell a defendant when his trial is scheduled. Anyway, that’s what most citizens assume. We should no longer assume this, according to the Supreme Court.
Fairey had repeatedly notified the trial court of his changes of address. He received mail from the court at his home in Florida. But prosecutors sent notification at his old addresses.
So, he was tried in absentia.
The state courts rejected his claim that there was anything improper in trying him this way. They said he had waived his right to appear.
By refusing to hear the case, the Supreme Court let these judgments stand.
Moral of the story: don’t assume that you will be notified if you are put on trial.
Look at it this way. If you are innocent, you have nothing to fear. Right?