Trout v. State

[CRIMINAL PROCEDURE]

In Trout v. State,[1] the court of appeals held that a trial judge is not required to conduct an independent inquiry as to whether a defendant made a knowing and voluntary decision to take the stand at his/her trial.[2] In 2009, the three sons of Lisa Trout moved in with their father, Dunovan Trout after Lisa Trout was incarcerated for felony DUI.[3] At some point following, the oldest son, J.T., admitted to his father that Lisa Trout had sexually abused him.[4] Trout was charged with two counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and one count of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor.[5] At trial, Trout chose to testify in her own defense where she admitted alcohol abuse and, when asked directly if she thought she might have sexually abused her son while black-out drunk, responded “yes.”[6] Trout was convicted on all three counts, but claimed the trial court made an error by not conducting and on-the-record inquiring into her decision to waive her right of silence.[7] The court of appeals declared that Trout’s claim is not supported by law and would be a new procedural rule that would require the trial court to conduct an inquiry every time a defendant chooses to take the stand at trial.[8] The court further articulated that such a rule is unnecessary, as there is no evidence that criminal defendants are being coerced or pressured by their lawyers to testify against their will.[9] The court also noted that such a rule might have a chilling effect on defendants choosing to take the stand, especially in instances when they do so contrary to their lawyer’s advice.[10] Affirming the lower court, the court of appeals held a trial judge is not required to conduct an independent inquiry as to whether a defendant made a knowing and voluntary decision to take the stand at his/her trial.[11]

[1] 377 P.3d 296 (Alaska Ct. App. 2016).
[2] Id. at 300.
[3] Id. at 297.
[4] Id.
[5] Id. at 298.
[6] Id. at 299
[7] Id.
[8] Id.
[9] Id. at 300.
[10] Id.
[11] Id.

Trout v. State

[CRIMINAL PROCEDURE]

In Trout v. State,[1] the court of appeals held that a trial judge is not required to conduct an independent inquiry as to whether a defendant made a knowing and voluntary decision to take the stand at his/her trial.[2] In 2009, the three sons of Lisa Trout moved in with their father, Dunovan Trout after Lisa Trout was incarcerated for felony DUI.[3] At some point following, the oldest son, J.T., admitted to his father that Lisa Trout had sexually abused him.[4] Trout was charged with two counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and one count of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor.[5] At trial, Trout chose to testify in her own defense where she admitted alcohol abuse and, when asked directly if she thought she might have sexually abused her son while black-out drunk, responded “yes.”[6] Trout was convicted on all three counts, but claimed the trial court made an error by not conducting and on-the-record inquiring into her decision to waive her right of silence.[7] The court of appeals declared that Trout’s claim is not supported by law and would be a new procedural rule that would require the trial court to conduct an inquiry every time a defendant chooses to take the stand at trial.[8] The court further articulated that such a rule is unnecessary, as there is no evidence that criminal defendants are being coerced or pressured by their lawyers to testify against their will.[9] The court also noted that such a rule might have a chilling effect on defendants choosing to take the stand, especially in instances when they do so contrary to their lawyer’s advice.[10] Affirming the lower court, the court of appeals held a trial judge is not required to conduct an independent inquiry as to whether a defendant made a knowing and voluntary decision to take the stand at his/her trial.[11]

[1] 377 P.3d 296 (Alaska Ct. App. 2016).
[2] Id. at 300.
[3] Id. at 297.
[4] Id.
[5] Id. at 298.
[6] Id. at 299
[7] Id.
[8] Id.
[9] Id. at 300.
[10] Id.
[11] Id.