That a magistrate makes a mistake, it happens, no one is infallible. But when a magistrate gets bogged down, a second looks away and a third covers the fault, it is the institution that is damaged.
On Thursday, February 4, in front of the Assize Court of Agen, a man accused of raping three women, including a mentally handicapped woman, whom he had received at his home as a sophrologist, was on trial. Gérard Micieli, 80, appeared free. He will be found guilty in the evening and sentenced to eight years in prison.
Mr. Micieli, however, did not attend the pleadings of his victims’ lawyers or the indictment and was not defended by his lawyers, who had turned their heels. He was absent at the time of the verdict, which was accompanied by an arrest warrant. The SAMU had taken him to Agen Hospital, after an illness on the last day of his trial.
Faced with such a situation, the president of the Assize Court ordered a medical expertise to verify the state of health of the accused. A healthy precaution, when this man had already been uneasy in November 2018 before the same Assize Court, justifying a referral of the case. The prospect of a further postponement of the trial did not delight anyone.
But, rather than swallow the frustration of not being able to complete a trial so close to the verdict, the president of the court, Cyril Vidalie, obviously sat on his code of criminal procedure. He ruled on the continuation of the proceedings without waiting for the report of the medical expert, without this doctor even starting to examine it. This report will say that the accused, victim of a stroke, was in a state of “Immediately incompatible” with his appearance.
Violation of law
Mr. Vidalie invoked Article 379-2 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, according to which, in the event that “The absence of the convicted person during the proceedings is noted while the interrogations of the accused on the facts and on his personality have already been carried out, (…) the trial continues until its end ”. The defense lawyer, Edouard Martial, pointed out in vain that this article concerns the modalities of the “Criminal fault”, that is, when an accused chooses not to come. The lawyer left the room to protest such a violation of the law.
Faced with the echo of this incident in South West, the Attorney General of the Court of Appeal of Agen published a press release on February 7, in particular to validate the interpretation of this article of the code. It was undoubtedly necessary to stifle the doubt which might have arisen in public opinion as to the conduct of this trial.
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