The CNMI Supreme Court denied Friday last week a request by the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to order the trial court to sentence Jiang Hong Sheng in his absence.
Sheng was convicted of assault and battery, assault with a dangerous weapon, and disturbing the peace in 2018. He was set to be sentenced in late 2018 but the hearing was pushed back several times due to Super Typhoon Yutu, delays in completing the pre-sentencing investigation report, Sheng’s non-appearance, and the coronavirus pandemic.
A hearing was held in June 2020 but Sheng again did not appear, and the Commonwealth asked the court to sentence Sheng in his absence. The court did not answer the request and so the Commonwealth again requested that the court sentence Sheng in his absence. The court rejected the Commonwealth’s request and Sheng has not been sentenced.
The Commonwealth asked the Supreme Court to order the trial court to make a decision about whether to sentence Sheng in his absence or order the trial court to sentence Sheng even if he does not appear. It also argued the court had lost authority over the case when it did not answer the Commonwealth’s request and that sentencing had been unreasonably delayed.
The Supreme Court denied the request, finding that the NMI Rules of Criminal Procedure required Sheng to be present for sentencing. The high court provided guidance for finding unreasonable delay but left that decision for the trial court because it requires a close examination of the facts of the case.
The high court’s full opinion is available at https://www.cnmilaw.org/spm21.php#gsc.tab=0. (PR)