Appeals court says criminals can’t be sentenced by video

HILLSDALE, Mich. (AP) – The Michigan appeals court says video may be a convenient way to conduct some court business but it’s not appropriate when ordering a sentence.

The court says Hillsdale County Judge Michael Smith was wrong when he didn’t bring a man to court for sentencing in a methamphetamine case. Trenity Heller appeared by video from jail. His attorney didn’t object.

The appeals court says Heller’s physical absence from court “nullified the dignity of the proceeding” and made it “fundamentally unfair.” The 3-0 decision was released Friday.

The court says isolating Heller “clashes with the judge’s duty to acknowledge the humanity of even a convicted felon.”

The appeals court also found problems with Heller’s sentence of at least 30 months in prison, which was well above the guidelines.

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