Polanski’s Dilemma

September 30, 2009

After his arrest this week, Roman Polanski is expected to fight extradition from Switzerland to the United States where he pled guilty to unlawful sex with a 13 year old girl in 1977.

Many seem to be puzzled why, after so many years, has the LA County District Attorney’s office bothered with this now? The answer seems to be pretty clear: Polanski, through his lawyers, red-flagged himself when he petitioned an appeals court to dismiss his case earlier this year. By doing so, even though instances of judicial misconduct were noted, he put himself back on the radar map.

But Polanksi’s dilemma is not so much of whether his conviction can be set-aside or his plea withdrawn. The judicial misconduct at the time appears present and he deserves to have this opportunity. Rather, it lies in the fact that he willfully fled and became a fugitive. Courts’ do not like when their orders are disobeyed and when one fails to appear for proceedings. So if he is extradited, Mr. Polanski’s problem is not so much whether he can get a new trial, or withdraw his previous plea…but in explaining why he shouldn’t be punished (as most defendants are) for going awol for the better part of 30 years.