Prisoner Denied Right to Speak Gets New Hearing

     (CN) - A California parolee must be resentenced for his most recent crimes because he was not told that he had the right to speak before being sent back to prison, the 9th Circuit ruled Wednesday.
     After spending more than 17 years behind bars for dealing cocaine, John Daniels began a 10-year term of supervised release in 2008. Some four years later, police found marijuana, a firearm and drug trafficking paraphernalia in his car during a traffic stop.
     U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson revoked Daniels' probation and sentenced him to a further 40 months in prison and 20 months of supervised release.
     During the sentencing hearing, Judge Wilson did not tell Daniels that he could speak on his his behalf before hearing his sentence.
     Appealing the sentence in the 9th Circuit, Daniels claimed that the lower court had violated federal rules of criminal procedure by failing to personally ask him whether he wanted to speak before sentencing.
     The government countered that, under the relevant rules, the judge was required to allow Daniels to speak, but not to prompt him to do so.
     A unanimous appellate panel agreed with Daniels, vacated his sentence, and remanded the case for resentencing on Wednesday.
     "Allocution by a supervised releasee gives the court more information on which to base its sentence," wrote Judge Ronald Gould for the three-judge panel. "It also encourages the supervised releasee to participate in post-revocation sentencing, enhancing his dignity."
     Gould added that a "supervised releasees-like criminal defendants-have an absolute right to speak before the penalty imposed by law is handed down."