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Ten years after pleading guilty to second-degree assault and six years after completing the prison sentence, Lawrence R. Smith won a reversal of his conviction because the trial judge did not use the words “jury trial” when Smith was canvassed by the court. The case, which the Connecticut Appellate Court on June 12 described as having a “complicated procedural history,” was first filed in 1995. Dismissed as moot in 1999 after the four-year prison sentence expired, the appellate courts reversed the dismissal and in June 2002, the habeas court restored his right to appeal his conviction. In the appeal, Smith claimed his guilty plea was not made knowingly, because he was not advised of the right to a jury trial. Smith, who was serving an unrelated 58-year sentence on kidnapping charges, pled guilty on the assault charge the day of his arraignment in 1995. At the arraignment, the trial court asked Smith if he “wanted to ‘get this over with’ or if he wanted to keep coming back to court.” Smith agreed to plead to the assault charge in order to obtain a concurrent sentence to the long one he is still serving for the kidnapping conviction. The judge then canvassed Smith, but neglected to use the word “jury” in describing Smith’s right to trial on the assault charge. Citing State v. Badgett, prosecutors argued that the court could infer from Smith’s previous experience with the court system that he knew he had the right to jury trial. Justices Paul M. Foti, Thomas G. West and Alexandra D. DiPentima disagreed, saying in Badgett, the defendant was being represented by counsel and his prior experience with the legal system was during previous proceedings on the same underlying charges. “Although appealing at first blush, that argument fails to persuade,” DiPentima wrote. “In the defendant’s two prior jury trials, he was represented by counsel, charged with different offenses and was not a sentenced prisoner.” Assistant Public Defender James B. Streeto, who represented Smith on appeal, said he was waiting to hear whether the state would petition the Connecticut Supreme Court to take up the case. “Obviously we are pleased with the decision,” he said. “I think the court applied well established case law to the facts of the case.” Deputy Assistant State’s Attorney Proloy K. Das, who argued the case for the state, could not be reached for comment.

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