Criminal Rule 32(A) Interpretation
In Green v. United States, 365 U.S. 301, 303 n.1, 81 S. Ct. 653, 5 L. Ed. 2d 670 (1961), "petitioner claimed that the failure of the judge to inquire of the defendant if he had anything to say on his own behalf prior to sentencing rendered the subsequent sentence illegal under Federal Criminal Rule 32(a)."
In interpreting Rule 32(a), the United States Supreme Court noted:
Its legal provenance was the common-law right of allocution. As early as 1689, it was recognized that the court's failure to ask the defendant if he had anything to say before sentence was imposed required reversal. See Anonymous, 3 Mod. 265, 266, 87 Eng. Rep. 175 (K. B.).
Taken in the context of its history, there can be little doubt that the drafters of Rule 32(a) intended that the defendant be personally afforded the opportunity to speak before imposition of sentence.
We are not unmindful of the relevant major changes that have evolved in criminal procedure since the seventeenth century--the sharp decrease in the number of crimes which were punishable by death, the right of the defendant to testify on his own behalf, and the right to counsel.
But we see no reason why a procedural rule should be limited to the circumstances under which it arose if reasons for the right it protects remain.
None of these modern innovations lessens the need for the defendant, personally, to have the opportunity to present to the court his plea in mitigation. the most persuasive counsel may not be able to speak for a defendant as the defendant might, with halting eloquence, speak for himself. Id. at 304.