Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez Appeals His Conviction
A THREE-JUDGE PANEL HEARD HIS CASE
By Jeff Cohen
February 19, 2013
Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez was back in court today/yesterday, appealing his 2010 convictions on corruption-related charges. As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, Perez was sentenced to three years in prison but has been free while his appeal is pending.
Perez was convicted for two separate incidents. In one, he was accused of taking discounted renovations on his home from a city contractor. In the other, he was accused extorting a city developer for his own political gain.
Now, these questions are being appealed: Was the trial court right to combine the two cases into one? And did combining them hurt Perez's chances of getting a fair trial?
Hubert Santos is Perez's attorney. He says there was no way the mayor could get a fair trial in the second case after being painted as a "liar, a crook, and a thief" in the first.
"So all of this was thrown at the jury in one sitting and by the time we got up to present our defense, we were pretty well cooked, so to speak."
One of the three judges on the panel, Douglas Lavine, asked Santos this:
Lavine: Don't we have to assume that the jury listens to and follows instructions about considering these matters separately, even if our everyday, real-world experience tells us that that's a very difficult thing to do?
Santos: The court can give every cautionary instruction it wants in the world, that these cases are separate, you're not to combine them.
But, he said, you can't guarantee a jury complies
Harry Weller, the state's attorney in the case, disagreed.
"There's just no question here that the jury kept the case separately."
Weller says combining the cases made sense -- it saved the state money, it made it easier to select a jury, and it expedited the trial for residents of the capital city.
Judge Lavine then asked Weller a question.
Lavine: From a standpoint of just fundamental fairness, would you agree that it would be fairer to the defendant to have two separate trials than to have one trial?
Weller: Just because it makes it more inconvenient, just because it makes it harder to defend, those are not reasons to not join cases.
The former mayor's attorneys have asked for either a reversal of charges or for two new trials. It is not clear when the judges will rule.