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State v. Morais

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

March 28, 2019

State
v.
Julio Morais.

          Providence County Superior Court, P1/10-3733A Daniel A. Procaccini Associate Justice

          For State: Lauren S. Zurier Department of the Attorney General

          For Defendant: Lara E. Montecalvo Office of the Public Defender

          Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

          OPINION

          Gilbert V. Indeglia Associate Justice.

         After a bench trial in Providence County Superior Court, the trial justice found the defendant, Julio Morais (defendant), guilty of four counts of first-degree child molestation sexual assault. On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial justice erred, pursuant to Rule 23(a) of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure, when he accepted a jury-waiver form that the defendant had signed outside the presence of the trial justice; thus, the defendant contends that the trial justice lacked jurisdiction to conduct a bench trial. The defendant further contends that his colloquy with the trial justice failed to demonstrate that the defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial. Finally, the defendant argues that the trial justice did not adequately explain the differences between a jury trial and a bench trial. For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm the judgment of conviction.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         In light of the nature of defendant's appeal now before us, we do not deem it necessary to discuss the specific and graphic nature of the criminal activity for which defendant stands convicted. We simply note that on December 9, 2010, defendant was charged by criminal indictment with five counts of first-degree child molestation sexual assault, in violation of G.L. 1956 §§ 11-37-8.1 and 11-37-8.2, for alleged incidents involving his stepdaughter. Prior to trial, defendant signed a jury-waiver form in the cellblock of the Providence County courthouse-the validity of which is at issue in this appeal. On September 9, 2013, after defendant had signed the jury-waiver form, the following colloquy transpired between the trial justice and defendant, on the record, in open court:

"THE COURT: Sir, there is one other thing that we will do today, before we will begin the trial. The State has all of or many of their witnesses all set to go tomorrow so we won't be doing anything today on your trial, except it is my understanding that you have made a decision in this case to give up your right to a jury trial. Is that correct, sir?
"THE DEFENDANT: That is true.
"THE COURT: Before you do that, sir, I want to make sure you understand that you have a constitutional right to have a trial by jury and that jury would consist of your fellow citizens here in the State of Rhode Island. They come in for jury duty and then we have a process of selecting them, and in a criminal case like this we would have 12 jurors sit right over there in the jury box and listen to the case and make a decision as to your guilt or innocence at the end of the trial and it is my understanding, sir, you do not want a jury trial, correct?
"THE DEFENDANT: No, I do not.
"THE COURT: So you are asking that I make the decision as the Judge at the end of the case that I will make the decision as the judge in this trial as to your guilt or innocence? Correct, sir?
"THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
"THE COURT: And you are comfortable doing that?
"THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
"THE COURT: And I'm sure you spoke to * * * your attorney about that and he-
"THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
"THE COURT: And he answered any questions you may have had about how that ...

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